As Trinamul Congress supremo and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee opposes the BJP led central government in almost all issues, the Terai Indian Planters’ Association (TIPA) has taken the opportunity to inform her of the problems facing the tea industry in North Bengal and how the import and export policy on tea between India and Nepal had adversely affected the industry at the present situation.
TIPA Chairman Mahendra Prasad Bansal has written a letter to Miss Banerjee on 19 August 2021 in this regard, it is learnt. In the letter, Mr Bansal says: “Nepal has fixed an import duty of 40 per cent on import of tea into their country even in respect of teas originating in India. On the other hand, the Government of India has been allowing the import of teas originating in Nepal into Indian territory without imposing any import duty.”
“Does our government realize that the cost of production of teas in Nepal is 60 per cent of that in India?” the letter says, adding, “Labour laws are virtually non-existent in Nepal as compared to very stringent laws in our country such as the Plantation Labour Act 1951. Most of the tea is produced in Nepal by small growers. Child labour is rampant in the plantations in Nepal and the tea bushes in Nepal are young as compared to the old tea bushes in India.”
The TIPA further says that most of the tea growers in Nepal do not comply with the Plant Protection Code and FSSAI Regulation and that many of them belong to the unorganised sector.
“One of the members of TIPA lodged a specific complaint with the Tea Board of India on 23 February and 25 June this year against Tata Consumer Products Limited (TCPL) for blending and packaging teas originating in Nepal with Indian teas and selling them in India under the brand name Tata Gold, without mentioning the name of the country of origin of such tea and the name and complete address of importer and premises of packing in India,” Mr Bansal also points out.
Notably, in response to the complaint, the Controller of Licensing, Tea Board of India, Rajanigandha Seal Naskar, has recently asked that members of TIPA provide supporting documents so as to take action against the TCPL for alleged violation of the Tea Board circular. The TIPA member claimed that the TCPL has been purchasing a huge amount of inferior quality tea from Nepal for making its blend.