The Tea Board, in its meeting held in Tezpur on Monday, has given its approval to setting up of mini and micro factories by small tea growers within their plantation areas.

The Board will provide subsidy to improve quality of tea made by reducing transportation time to retain garden freshness, improving plucking standards and by ensuring less handling of green leaf from small tea gardens.

The Tea Board defined factories with capacity upto 200 kgs made tea production per day as ‘’micro factory’’ and those below 500 kgs made tea production per day as ‘’mini factory.’’ Tea growers having land holding of their plantation up to 10.12 hectare (25 acres) are considered small tea growers.

The meeting, chaired by Tea Board chairman M.G V.K. Bhanu, also approved that small tea growers can set-up factories without registering themselves under Tea Marketing Control Order (TMCO), 2003. The small tea growers will now be able to set-up their own factories only by obtaining a certificate from Tea Board and will be able to sell their teas through auction centres or directly from their factories.

“If the small tea growers are able to set up their own factories within their plantation area the quality of tea will definitely improve because of improvement in plucking standards, less transportation time and less handling of green leaf. It will also generate huge employment at local level,” said Bidyananda Barkakoty, Chairman of North Eastern Tea Association (NETA), who is also a member of Advisory committee of the Directorate of small tea growers headquartered at Dibrugarh.

Currently, green tea leaves from small tea gardens are subjected to handling at multiple stages while being transported to distant tea factories and much of the garden freshness is lost in the process. Mr Barkakoty, who attended the meeting as a special invitee, also said that the Tea Board would provide 40 per cent subsidy on actual cost of plant and machinery (excluding land cost) to small tea growers to facilitate set up of mini and micro factories.

He said that small tea growers presently contributed about 35 per cent of India’s total tea production, and their contribution has been projected to increase to 50 per cent of the country’s total tea production in another five to seven years. Assam has about one lakh small tea growers and the state produced 588 million kg of tea in 2012.

The Tea Board through another resolution approved that small tea growers would now be able to obtain biometric cards by March 2014, from Tea Board, by paying Rs.100. Small tea growers having biometric cards will only be eligible to get subsidy from Tea Board from April 1, 2014.

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