Guwahati, March 25 (IANS) Small tea growers in the four Bodoland Territorial Area Districts (BTAD) in Assam are forced to sell their green leaves to markets in neighbouring West Bengal as there are hardly any leaf factories in the area, a tea growers association leader said, adding the state government was losing precious revenue.
Tea growers in the districts of Kokrajhar, Baksa, Chirang and Udalguri, on the north bank of the Brahmaputra, were selling their produce to factories in Jalpaiguri and Siliguri in West Bengal, which are closer to them, said Bodoland Small Tea Growers Association secretary Pranay Basumatary.
Basumatary favoured setting up of more leaf factories in lower Assam, which he said would not only help the small tea growers in BTAD but also enrich state's exchequer.
The BTAD area or Bodoland is a territorial arrangement, which came into existence in 2003 following the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) Accord between the central government and Bodoland Liberation Tigers (BLT) militants.
Tea cultivation in BTAD areas is comparatively a new phenomenon which started after 1999. However, it is being promoted by the BTC administration since 2005 as tea cultivation proved to be one of the ways to rehabilitate the former rebels.
"The small tea growers in Assam including those in BTAD are to pay a cess of 25 paisa against per kilogram of green leaf. However, the government is losing the amount as the growers in BTAD are selling their green leaves to the factories in two neighbouring districts of north Bengal," Basumatary said.
He estimated that the about 3,000 small tea growers produce approximately 65,000 kg of green leaves annually.
"This indicates that the Assam government is losing revenue to the tune of Rs.16,250 annually," Basumatary said.
Besides, the state's total tea output will also increase if these 65,000 kg green leaves are sold to bought leaf factories in Assam.
"There are six leaf factories in lower Assam and out of them only three are located in Kokrajhar district. However, they are not much interested in buying the leaves from small tea growers for reasons best known to them," claimed Basumatary.
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