Assam tea growers seek irrigation subsidy

Guwahati, Hit by a severe drought-like situation and erratic rainfall, the tea growers' organisations in Assam have asked the government to launch a subsidy scheme for irrigation which can be availed of by tea estates of all sizes.

According to statistics provided by the organisations, production is already low this year compared to the last two years, and the overall figures are likely to suffer if this situation persists.

Experts say this has been the worst season in the last 25 years as the gardens were forced to stop plucking in April-end even in rain-fed areas like Doomdooma in Tinsukia district.

The state produced about 620 million kg of tea last year, and 580 million kg in 2012.

"However, production has remained low this year due to the severe heat wave in the beginning and erratic distribution of rain now," said North Eastern Tea Association (NETA) chairman Bidyananda Barkakoty.

"In April, we were 40 percent behind the production figures compared to that of last year," he said.

"A subsidy scheme on irrigation which can be availed of by tea estates of all sizes including the financially weak is the need of the hour," he said.

"We have approached the Tea Board of India for some scheme ensuring 60 percent subsidy for general irrigation and 75 percent subsidy for drip irrigation so that it is affordable for all tea estates," Barkakoty said.

The association has also appealed to the board to announce a subsidy scheme for rainwater harvesting.

Over 60 percent of the tea growing areas in Assam do not have proper irrigation facilities, he said.

"Only estates run by large corporate houses have irrigation facilities. However, small growers, who contribute a large chunk of the state's total tea production, do not have irrigation facilities in their gardens," he said.

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