KAMAL NATH CALLS FOR COMPREHENSIVE PACKAGE FOR REVIVAL OF TEA INDUSTRY
STAKEHOLDERS CONFERENCE ON TEA INAUGURATED
Date : 16 Sep 2004
Location : New Delhi
Shri Kamal Nath, Union Minister of Commerce & Industry, today called for a comprehensive package for the revival of the tea industry. "The tea industry is too important and too complex to be dealt with piece-meal. In order to be truly effective, the revival package has to be a comprehensive one. It is for this reason, we have decided that everybody who has a stake in the industry… should be represented at this Conference", Shri Kamal Nath said while inaugurating the two-day Stakeholders Conference on Challenges before the Tea Industry, organised here jointly by the Tea Board of India and the Ministry of Commerce & Industry (Department of Commerce). He said that the objective of the Conference was to take stock of the current situation and to evolve a long-term policy as well as a suitable package to enable the tea industry to overcome the current crisis and meet the challenges of the future. Shri Kamal Nath indicated that he would also soon be meeting Members of Parliament of tea growing areas, besides participating in the wrap-up session tomorrow, so as to evolve a useful and effective package for the industry. Shri E.V.K.S. Elangovan, Minister of State for Commerce & Industry; Shri Dipak Chatterjee, Commerce Secretary; Shri Abhijit Sengupta, Additional Secretary; Shri N.K. Das, Chairman, Tea Board were present at the inaugural ceremony along with state government officials, representatives of Tea Associations and planters community.
Stating that he was fully aware that the tea industry was beset with a number of problems, the Minister said: "Due to a steep fall in prices over the past few years, the level of returns is rather low. The decline in profitability has given rise to a vicious circle, in which adequate investment in tea gardens is not taking place. This has resulted in lower productivity, which in turn further worsens the profitability. A number of plantations have been closing down and thousands of workers have been rendered jobless. Our government is deeply concerned with this grave situation, and we are determined to rectify it".
The package should be designed to raise productivity levels and increasing the cost-effectiveness of production processes in India, as the root cause for the closure of tea gardens in several parts of the country is low productivity and lack of investment in the plantations, the Minister said. Quality aspects must receive due attention and the key strategy should be to augment India’s competitive strength. Meeting future challenges would depend also on putting R & D on a sound footing, Shri Kamal Nath said. Livelihood of the plantation workers is directly linked to the prosperity of the tea industry which provides direct employment to more than a million people and indirectly to twice that number, with most of them coming from the weaker sections and the majority being women, he added.
In his address, Shri Elangovan stated that the tea industry occupies major importance in the country’s economy and provides largest employment. Referring to the problems being faced by the tea industry, the Minister said that the government is seized of the matter and has taken a number of policy measures recently to tackle these problems. Shri Elangovan hoped that the deliberations during this 2-day Conference would throw up a number of solutions which could be considered in the formulation of package for the tea industry.
Shri Chatterjee emphasised the need to promote the Indian tea in overseas markets to change the perception about Indian tea which has taken a beating in recent times. He urged the representatives of the tea industry as well as the stakeholders to provide inputs so as to find construction solution to the problems being faced by the tea industry.