GUWAHATI: Welcoming the 2016-17 Union budget as a balanced one, the North Eastern Tea Association (NETA) said that the Centre should bring small tea growers under the coverage of Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY).
The budget allocated Rs 5,500 crore for crop insurance scheme.
"Crop insurance schemes like PMFBY will protect farmers from adverse consequences of nature. We therefore appeal to the Govt of India to extend this scheme to the Small Tea Growers," North Eastern Tea Association (NETA) adviser Bidyananda Barkakoty said on Tuesday.
The NETA, which represents medium sector tea industry in the state, also wanted the centre to put tea in the lowest slab when Goods and Services Tax bill is passed, arguing that tea is "common man's beverage".
At the 17th biennial general meeting of NETA last year, one of the issues raised was insurance cover to small tea growers to safeguard them from production-related risks and price volatility. The meeting highlighted on "unfavourable weather conditions" contributing to the loss of small tea growers.
There is an estimated one lakh small tea growers contributing about 45 percent of Assam's total tea production. In 2014, Assam's total tea production was 610.97 million kg.
Argument put forwarded by NETA members including Barkakoty at the meeting was that as the price small tea growers obtain for their green leaf is dependent on the price of the finished product (made tea) of the tea factories , insurance scheme for small tea growers has become imperative to cover production-related risks and price volatility.
On the overall budget, Barkakoty said its balanced one and there has been no other change in tax regime for tea sector in the budget 2016 compared to budget 2015.
"However, the cost of production of tea may go up due to hike in clean energy cess from Rs.200 to Rs.400 per tonne on coal, lignite and peat. In Assam, 60% of tea factories run their 'dryers' with coal and remaining 40% run with natural gas supplied by Assam Gas Company Limited," Barkakoty argued.





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