Leading industry body Tea Association of India (TAI) on Monday highlighted the problem of rising coal costs due to acute shortages affecting plantation activity as it is a key input for manufacturing in North Bengal.
TAI said that as the North Bengal region does not have access to natural gas supplies available in Upper Assam Gardens, this results in North Bengal Gardens at a competitive disadvantage.
On the issue of minimum wages in a labor-intensive industry like tea, sources in the association said production costs are always higher because of wages compared to other less labour-intensive industries.
Labor costs are estimated to be nearly 60% due to wages, which is much lower than other labor-intensive sectors, TAI said.
TAI said the West Bengal government, employers and workers have been addressing issues related to minimum wage setting. Through various industry submissions, the federation had asked the government to study the wage structure of tea workers, and the industry also had to fulfill separate commitments to the workers in the form of in-kind benefits such as ration, housing, health, etc. Education.
Regarding climate change, TAI pointed out that the industry has seen a sharp drop in rainfall every year after October, leaving the plantations vulnerable to pest infestations. The association said that to counteract this problem, more irrigation facilities should be made available to the tea industry by taking advantage of technological advances.
Tea production in North Bengal had grown by leaps and bounds, particularly among small producers. However, preliminary estimates show that only 4 million kg of tea is exported from North Bengal and this figure needs to be increased.
Regarding the West Bengal government’s welfare programs, TAI said that the program of providing shelter for the workers under the “Cha Sundari” program is a welcome step.