Unhappy with the progress of the scheme for rejuvenating tea gardens, industry regulator, the Tea Board of India, has decided to link all payments under its various assistance schemes with the Special Purpose Tea Fund (SPTF).

Tea Board Chairman M.G.V.K. Bhanu told The Hindu that the decision was taken on Wednesday following a review meeting on SPTF. The scheme was rolled out in 2007. The objective of the scheme is to ncrease the productivity of Indian teas through a scheme of replanting and rejuvenating the tea-bushes many of whom had exceeded their average 50-year lifespan.

The progress of the SPTF over the last five years has been tardy. To address the problem of crop loss, the Tea Board has sent a proposal to the government to increase the unit cost for calculation of capital subsidy. “This should help compensate for the crop loss,” Mr. Bhanu said.

He said that gardens where over 50 per cent of the bushes had exceeded their lifespan would now have to replant at least 2 per cent of its area to qualify for getting the various other assistance of the Tea Board.

As part of its plans to pep up the sector, the Union Commerce Ministry had decided to introduce SPTF, a programme for a massive replantation and rejuvenation targeted at the organised sector. Under the programme, 2.13 lakh hectares were proposed to be uprooted and replanted within 15 years. Of this, majority would be in Assam, followed by West Bengal and South India. The estimated cost of SPTF was Rs. 4,761 crore with a loan and a subsidy component. The programme was expected to increase yields from 1,662 kg per hectare to 2,120 kg in North India and to 2,420 kg in south India.

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