Indrani Dutta

KOLKATA: Union Minister of State for Commerce Jairam Ramesh kicked off a series of initiatives mainly for the tea industry during a whistle-stop tour, when he laid the foundation for a tea park, a dry port, the world’s first pesticide residue laboratory in a tea-growing region, a centre of excellence in tea and a tea museum.

Rs. 63 cr. investment

The projects entail an investment of Rs. 63 crore, which will be funded by the Commerce Ministry, the Tea Board and the industry.

During his 22-hour tour, he also met the representatives of the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha. While meeting the scientists at the Darjeeling Tea Research and Development Centre (DTRDC) in Kurseong, the minister was told that he was the first central minister to be there since 1982. He held a meeting with the Darjeeling Tea Association (DTA), the apex body of the 87 tea estates in the Darjeeling region.

GI park

At the function to mark the stone-laying for the Centre for Excellence on Friday, he said the DTA would identify by February 10, a site for setting up a GI (geographical indication) park for teas produced in Darjeeling where value- addition, now being done in countries such as Germany, will be conducted.

“This has been the prime concern of a lot of local people and we plan to address this issue by taking up tasks such as cleaning, grading, sorting and packaging at the park”. The Rs. 10-crore investment needed for this project would be shared equally between the Tea Board and the industry. “But I am willing to look at increased funding if things go well,” he later told The Hindu.