Darjeeling tea industry seeks Centre’s hlp

Estates shut since June 12

The tea industry has sought the Centre’s intervention to help the Darjeeling tea estates, caught in the current impasse in the hills. All the estates have been shut since June 12, after the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha called an indefinite bandh in the northern West Bengal hills in support of its demand for a separate Gorkhaland state.

At a meeting here on Wednesday, the national committee and the Darjeeling Regional Committee of the Indian Tea Association (ITA) (ITA) expressed grave concern over the present situation in the hills.

“The Darjeeling tea industry is already beset with a host of problems, including the increased import of Nepal teas, and this closure has hit the sector hard,” a release issued by the apex industry association ITA said. “We have met key Central Ministers in this regard,” an ITA official said.

The 87 tea estates, producing the “champagne of teas”, have been shut for a fortnight now. These estates generally produce ‘second flush’ teas during this time of the year. With its unique muscatel flavour, these teas yield high prices in the export markets. “The loss of production during this period is causing severe financial stress to this ailing industry with likely adverse economic consequences for the future,” the statement said. “The revenue loss during this prime season has been estimated at ₹150 crore as on June 30, 2017,” the ITA said.

A.N. Singh, former ITA chairman and MD of Goodricke that has five gardens in Darjeeling, said: “We have already lost ₹6.5 crores in the last 15 days,” he said.

The industry employs over 55,000 workers, most of whom are women with no other means of livelihood. They depend on the estates for food, accommodation and medical benefits. With depleting rations, workers are likely to be hit hard.

Exports of Darjeeling tea, which dropped to 6 million kg in 2016 from 7 million kg in 2015, would suffer a ₹100 crore loss, according to industry estimates. The tea-tourism sector too has been affected. The unrest led to cancellation of all tourist booking on the estates.

GST woes

The stalemate would impact GST rollout in the industry too, the ITA said. While all transactions with regard to invoicing, returns and input tax credit should be done online using the official GST portal, the lack of internet connectivity in Darjeeling would hinder the smooth transition to the new tax regime, it said.

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Printable version | Feb 24, 2020 1:56:55 PM |

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