No relief this fiscal for strike-hit Darjeeling tea growers

Package being considered by the Department of Expenditure can now be provided only next fiscal


It is turning out to be a long wait for the Darjeeling tea growers who had been hoping for a financial package this fiscal to get over the losses suffered due to the Gorkhaland agitation.

The strike resulted in the forced closure of gardens for 104 days, between June and September last year.

“The Department of Expenditure had demanded a detailed information on the losses suffered by the tea growers including data from some specific affected tea gardens before deciding on the package. The Commerce Ministry has finally been able to submit all that was sought, but now it seems it is too late to get the package approved this financial year,” a government official told BusinessLine.

A longer wait

Since the revised estimate stage for the financial year is also over, the tea growers will have to wait for the package to be provided for in the next financial year, the official added.

The Commerce Ministry was trying for an extra budgetary allocation for the package which, as per Tea Board’s calculation, should be around 100 crore.

“Now that the whole thing would be moved to the next financial year, the wait for the package has just got longer for the tea plantation owners,” the official said.

According to industry estimates, the forced closure of tea gardens led to a loss of 5 million kg (mkg) of tea worth 700 crore. The Darjeeling Tea Association sought 350 crore from the Centre, but the Tea Board pared down the demand to 100 crore.

“We don’t know what the final size of the package would be. It would depend upon what the DEA calculates based on the data on losses suffered by individual tea plantations that has been provided,” the official added.

Export market may suffer

The Darjeeling tea industry is in urgent need of the package as it is apprehensive of losing its export market to competitors if it can’t restore supplies for too long.

Of the total 8 mkg of Darjeeling tea annually produced across 87 estates, about half gets exported.

“If the Darjeeling tea is out of the world market for long, there are chances that other varieties, such as one grown in Nepal, would replace it,” the official said.


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