The tea industry in Assam has incurred a loss of more than Rs 500 crore during the novel coronavirus-induced nationwide lockdown, state Industry and Commerce Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary said in Guwahati on May 6.
Addressing a press conference, Patowary said, “Tea industry is the biggest industry in the state and being seasonal, the lockdown coincided with start of the new season. The tea industry has been hit hard as their major production period has been affected.”
The tea production in India during 2019 was 1389.70 million kg, out of which Assam produced 715.49 million kg, amounting to 51.51 per cent of the total tea production in India.
Due to the lockdown, the total decline in production of tea in Assam is estimated at 32 million kg, amounting to a loss of more than Rs 500 crore, Patowary said.
In order to provide some relief for the tea growers, the chief minister has already announced the waiver of the Minimum Fixed Charge of supply of natural gas to the tea gardens which were closed during the lockdown period, he added.
All 783 big tea gardens and 1.18 lakh small tea gardens have reopened in the state. Moreover, 508 tea factories and 296 bought-leaf factories have been allowed to function.
Altogether 7.33 lakh workers are being engaged in the big tea gardens and about 3 lakh workers are working in the small tea gardens.
“Regular visits are being made by the department officers for ensuring compliance of COVID-19 guidelines in the tea gardens,” Patowary said.
He further informed that all 15 gardens and factories of Assam Tea Corporation Limited (ATCL) have been allowed to function in full capacity and the state government has also ensured the payment of full wages to all 16,720 workers and employees of ATCL during the lockdown period.
“Tea auction has restarted in Guwahati and all tea warehouses have also been opened,” the minister added.