The likely merger of Tea Board of India with other commodity boards thereby to create an umbrella organisation would help enhance production and export of plantation crops such as tea, coffee and spices. As per Chairman of Tea Board, P K Bezboruah said there could be a possibility of the separation of the functions being performed by Tea Board and various other boards right now. He spoke at annual general meeting of the Tea Association of India. “There is also talk about bringing promotion under one umbrella and other functions of the board under the Agriculture Ministry. Research function of the board may be dismantled or may be handled by other organisations such as CSIR or ICAR.”
The board will have a more critical role to play if it is merged with the Agriculture Ministry. “If it is merged with the agriculture industry, maybe it will have more important role. The Agriculture Ministry is doing well for crops such as sugar cane, paddy and wheat. Maybe it will ensure that tea growers get fertilizers at the farm rate and not at the industrial rate.” It would be a ‘grave mistake’ to look at Tea Board as a ‘saviour’ of the industry in future, Bezboruah said. “Tea Board’s mandate has been to help the industry, but I feel that era is past. The thinking at the highest level of the government today is that the importance of these autonomous entities has decreased.”
There has been a drop in volumes for organised players, while small tea growers have been growing at a fast pace. Bezboruah said “The share of small tea growers is increasing and it will continue to go up with more and more growers from the north-eastern States of Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur getting into tea plantation on forest land,” The industry will therefore have to innovate to be able to sustain. Players should explore the possibility of going in for multi-cropping and mechanisation to improve productivity. “There is a lack of a level-playing field between the organised sector and the small tea growers. If the industry wants to survive, it will have to innovate.