The dip in price of green tea leaves, dearth of workers and the lack of tea processing factories in the public sector has hit the small scale tea growers in Wayanad district.
“The spot price of the green leaves on Monday was Rs.6 per kg against Rs.14 per kg during the corresponding period last year,” Saju Ikkarakunnath, president of Wayanad Small Tea Producers Marketing and processing co-operative society at Chulliyode said.
According to the data of the All Kerala Small Tea Growers Association there are as many as 17,000 small scale farmers engaged in the tea industry in 18 panchayats of the district and nearly 12,000 workers depending on it.
K. Thankachan, general secretary, All Kerala Small Tea Growers Federation told The Hindu on Monday that as much as 1,70,000 kg of green tea leaves were being produced by the small scale farmers per day. Whereas, the seven private tea factories functioning in the district produce only 22,000 kg tea leaves per day and the remaining quantity of raw tea leaves was procured by agents from the Nilgiri district in Tamilnadu for the factories functioning there.
"We are forced to sell our produce at a throw away price to the bought leaf agents from Tamilnadu", Thankappan, a small tea scale farmer at Nenmeni said. The prevailing price in the market is not remunerative as the production cost doubled has doubled now. With the dearth of workers, increasing wages also worry us a lot. We should get a minimum Rs.10 per kg to exist in the industry Mr.Thankappan said and added that the farmers had to spend more than Rs.10 to produce 1 kg of raw tea leaf, including other expenses such as labour charge, fertilizers and pesticides.
Whereas, the average price for tea dust remains the same -- Rs.100 per kg in Kunoor’s auction market in Tamilnadu for the past three years, Mr. Thankachan said. Moreover, the branded tea companies are marketing the tea dust at a rate of Rs.208 to 238 per kg after procuring the green tea leaves at an average rate of Rs.5 per kg from the farmers, he added.
“According to the estimate of the tea experts as much as a 4 kg of green tea leaves are needed to produce 1 kg of tea dust .As per the existing factors the companies can provide better prices for the farmers,” Mr. Thankachan said.
Though the former Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Jairam Ramesh had declared a Rs.10 crore package for the small scale tea farmers in the district including setting up a tea factory in the cooperative sector of district last year, the government is yet to implement the package so far.
The sales tax personnel of the state also trouble the farmers by imposing the 12 percent tax for their produce while they are crossing the Kerala–Tamilnadu border check posts. Hence, the farmers are demanding an exempt on sales tax for the quickly perishable green tea leaves.