The Tea Board will give small growers subsidy for establishing mini and micro factories in their plantation areas. The aim is to improve the quality of tea by cutting transport time to retain garden freshness, improving plucking standards and ensuring less handling of green leaf from small gardens.

At its 225th meeting held at Tezpur in north Assam on Monday, the Board decided that factories with a production below 200 kg a day would be defined as micro factory and those below 500 kg as mini factory. Growers having land holding up to 10.12 hectare (25 acres) would be considered small growers.

The meeting also decided to allow small growers to open factories without registering themselves under the Tea Marketing Control Order, 2003. From now on, they can open factories by obtaining a certificate from the Board and sell their produce through auction centres or from their factories.

“If the small growers are able to set up their own factories within their plantation area, the quality of tea will get better because of an improvement in plucking standards, less transport time and less handling of green leaf. It will also generate jobs,” said Bidyananda Barkakoty, chairman of the North Eastern Tea Association. Mr. Barkakoty is also a member of the advisory committee of the directorate of small tea growers, Dibrugarh.

Currently, green leaves from small gardens are handled at multiple stages while they are transported to factories some distance away; they lose much of their freshness in the process. Mr Barkakoty, who attended the meeting as a special invitee, said the Board would give 40 per cent subsidy on the cost of plant and machinery (excluding the land cost).