Coverage under Agriculture Crop Insurance schemes and subsidized fertilizers for tea sector, the two major demands of small tea growers in India are gaining momentum. The national apex body of small tea growers has made an appeal to the union Finance Minister P Chidambaram to incorporate the tea sector under these schemes in his next budget proposal.
“Despite being highly dependent on the climatic whims, tea is not covered under the schemes of Agriculture Insurance Company of India Limited (AICIL). We have requested finance Minister to introduce something concrete on this in next budget,” said Mr. Bijoy Gopal Chakroborty, Secretary of Confederation of Indian Small Tea Growers Associations (CISTA).
AICIL has already started working on this with Indian Tea Board (ITB), informed Mr. K C Behra, Regional Manager of AICIL. “We have taken joint steps to develop schemes to cover tea plantation against risks of heavy shower, draught, hailstorm, frost, snowfall etc. We have also asked meteorology department for long duration weather data for all the tea producing regions. At present, these schemes cover coffee and rubber, but not tea,” said Mr G Boriah, ITB Director (Development).
Fertilizer is another major issue. “Tea in India is not considered purely as part of agriculture. So, during indenting fertilizer quota, agriculture departments of tea producing states do not include fertilizer needed for tea sector. Naturally, the indented volume remains much lesser than actual combined need of tea and other agriculture crops. This generates artificial crisis forcing us to procure fertilizer at 30% to 40% higher price from open market,” said Mr. Chakraborty.
Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce has stated in its report number 102, “The problem of increased cost of fertilizers with no subsidy benefit is one of the main factors behind less productivity and also high cost of production (of tea). The Committee would like the Department to ensure that fertilizers subsidy is available to (tea) growers.”
According to experts, government will not have to take huge volume of additional financial load to allow this subsidy. Tea sector needs only around 0.3 million ton of NPK fertilizer per annum, which is a tiny fraction of total national demand of around 26 Million ton.
“These schemes will be highly beneficial for plantations in both- organized as well as unorganized sector,” said Mr. K. Basu, Secretary General of Tea Association of India.