Kolkata: The commerce ministry is working on a financial package for the tea industry which has been reeling under a crisis in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, Tea Board chairman P K Bezbaruah said on Thursday.
Production has been hit badly as tea gardens across the country were closed due to the nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of the disease, he said.
Recently, West Bengal and Assam, two big tea producing states in the country, have allowed operations in the estates with restricted workforce.
The planters were asked to maintain social distancing norms and take proper safety precautions in the tea gardens.
“The commerce ministry is working on a financial package for the battered tea industry which has been hit by the lockdown,” Bezbaruah told PTI.
There will be a “drastic reduction in volume this year due to the lockdown, and this could be to the extent of 120- 125 million kilogram,” he said.
The country had produced around 1,380 million kilogram of tea last year.
Assam and West Bengal allowed 50 per cent and 25 per cent workforce respectively to start operations in the gardens, but this will not suffice to maintain the production volume at a decent level, Bezbaruah said.
Operations with 50 per cent workforce have also been allowed in the two others tea producing regions -Kerala and Nilgiris, he added.
A list of suggestions regarding the financial package was sent to the commerce ministry when the lockdown started, he said.
The proposals included enhancement of working capital limit by 20 per cent, bringing down the interest rates and waiver of penalty for deferred loan repayment, Bezbaruah said.
“This (the package) will bear a marginal cost to the government and will be not much,” he said.
Bezbaruah also urged the government to pay the provident fund for all the tea garden workers for a period of three months.
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