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Thursday, May 05, 2011

Fewer factories to be set up to improve quality of tea

This from the Calcutta Telegraph, by a staff reporter

Too many factories spoil brew
- Association plea for steps

Jorhat, April 25: Cut-throat competition among factories in an attempt to produce more tea and coming up of at least 10 new bought leaf factories in the last few months have hit production of quality tea in Assam in recent times.

The Assam Bought Leaf Tea Manufacturers’ Association while apprising the state government of this has appealed to take necessary steps to check setting up of new factories so that quality tea could be produced.

“Setting up of these factories has resulted in demand for more green leaf and the increasing demand has forced small tea growers to pluck coarse leaves to make more money resulting in production of poor quality tea,” the chairman of the association, K. Sensowa, said in a letter to industries minister Pradyut Bordoloi a couple of days back.

Sensowa said despite the state industry department’s decision not to issue licences for setting of any bought leaf factory a few months back, at least 10 such factories had come up in Dibrugarh, Tinsukia and Golaghat districts in the last few months.

“It is surprising as to how these new factories have got their licences,” Sensowa said while talking to this correspondent.

There are 186 registered bought leaf factories in the state producing about 140 million kg of made tea per year which is about 30 per cent of total production of the state.

Blaming the bought leaf tea manufacturing factories for producing poor quality tea which has earned a bad name for Assam tea in recent years, the state industries department had decided to stop issuing licences for setting up of more such factories.

However, at least 10 new factories have come up in the last few months, which the industries department claims, have been set up on a temporary basis.

“These licences have been issued on a provisional manner,” a senior official of the industries department said.

Sensowa said there had been a shortage of green leaves and with the new factories coming up, the demand for green leaves had increased manifold.

“The result is that the small tea growers are providing coarse leaves to meet the growing demand and the quality of tea has deteriorated,” he said.

He said the restriction of issuing licences to bought leaf factories would stabilise the demand and supply of green leaf and would also help in producing good quality tea.

Sensowa also said there had been many instances when green leaves were transported for over 100km from the garden to the factory and this has resulted in production of poor quality tea.

“Only bought leaf factories are not responsible for such acts, several big companies are buying green leaves from small tea growers in a bid to produce more tea. These leaves are transported to a long distance. By the time the green leaves reach the factories, the leaves dry up thus hampering quality production,” Sensowa said.

The association has appealed to the government to take necessary steps to discourage such disturbing practices, especially by the organised sector which is spoiling the quality of tea and creating a bad name in the international market.

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