CM’s intervention saves the day for small tea growers

By Published On: April 11, 20242.7 min readViews: 2480 Comments on CM’s intervention saves the day for small tea growers
Jalpaiguri/ Siliguri: Within hours following the intervention by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, bought-leaf factories agreed to accept green tea leaves produced by small tea growers without having to furnish a Maximum Residue Level (MRL) certificate. The resolution emerged from a two-hour continuous meeting involving seven organisations of small tea growers and the North Bengal Tea Producers Welfare Association, held at the Jalpaiguri District Magistrate’s

office on Thursday.

On Wednesday, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had made an appeal to the district administration to ensure that the Bought Leaf Factories continue buying tea from small tea growers. “As the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) is in place, I would request all the government departments to look into the matter and provide necessary assistance. The administration should ensure that the sale of tea by the small tea growers is not stopped, otherwise the livelihood of 10 lakh small tea growers will be at stake,” the Chief Minister had stated. Banerjee stated that the Tea Board of India under the Union government has asked Bought Leaf Factories to stop buying tea leaves for small tea growers without proper certification.

Niraj Poddar, secretary of the North Bengal Tea Producers Welfare Association, stated: “A high-level meeting was held on Thursday during which a decision was made for purchased leaf factories to begin accepting green leaves from small tea growers starting Friday. A two-year timeframe was given to address the issue of using banned pesticides during green tea cultivation.”

Present at the meeting were Jalpaiguri District Magistrate Shama Parveen, Tea Board Deputy Director Subir Hazra, and state Agriculture department Principal Secretary Onkardas Meena. Additionally, through online participation, state Industrial department Secretary Vandana Yadav, along with district magistrates from four other districts in North Bengal and the secretary of the state Health department attended the meeting. Bijay Gopal Chakraborty, General Secretary of the Jalpaiguri District Small Tea Growers Association, remarked: “The meeting requested a two-year grace period. During this time, the use of any chemicals banned by the Tea Board of India will be gradually discontinued. The organisation will actively promote this initiative among tea farmers on behalf of the association.”

Sanjit Kumar Sarkar, a member of the Small Tea Growers Association from Bidhan Nagar under the Phansidewa block, expressed gratitude, stating: “We thank Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for considering our plight. We hope this issue will be resolved within the next two years.” In North Bengal, there are approximately 10 lakh small tea growers, with 420 million kg of tea produced annually, of which 255 million kg is processed by factories under the North Bengal Tea Producers Welfare Association. There are a total of 234 bought-leaf factories in North Bengal.

Recently, the Tea Board of India issued guidelines stipulating that no banned pesticides can be used in tea production to ensure public safety. They instructed bought-leaf tea factory owners that if any banned pesticides are found in tea, the factory will be held accountable, and action will be taken against it. Consequently, bought-leaf factories decided to stop accepting leaves without an MRL certificate. On Wednesday, when small tea growers from the Phansidewa area arrived with raw leaves at a tea factory in Bidhan Nagar, they were refused acceptance without an MRL certificate. In protest, the small tea growers dumped the tea leaves on National Highway 31.

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