Nine tea gardens reopen in Kerala

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New Delhi, Sept 16 (UNI) The Rs 4,760-crore Special Purpose Tea Fund (SPTF) for replanting and rejuvenating tea gardens have started showing results with nine of 17 closed tea gardens in Kerala having reopened following the rehabilitation package announced by the government in June.

Owners of the closed tea gardens were asked to avail the package by August-end and reopen the gardens expeditiously. Five gardens are in the process of settling their accounts and would open soon, according to the Union Commerce Ministry.

In West Bengal, one of 14 closed tea gardens has reopened and started functioning. Three gardens are in the process of being taken over by the new management. Two gardens have been negotiating with the banks for restructuring of their outstanding dues. Two more garden owners intend to sell their estates and are scouting for prospective entrepreneurs. All these are expected to reopen soon, the Ministry said in a statement.

The two closed tea gardens in Assam have got new management who is in the process of restarting the garden, it added.

The rehabilitation package was announced by the Central Government on June 29 for 33 tea gardens which were closed on April 1.

More than 30,000 workers employed in these gardens were affected due to their closure.

The package provides for restructuring of the outstanding bank dues, provision of fresh working capital with interest subsidy from the Government, waiver of outstanding loan dues to Tea Board and settlement of provident fund dues in installments.

The Ministry said once the accounts of these gardens are regularised, they will become eligible for term loan for replanting under the SPTF, and upfront subsidy for the machinery items under the quality upgradation scheme of Tea Board.

Disbursements from the Rs 4,760-crore fund are likely to start next month. Tea Board had received 400 applications from tea companies which have gardens in West Bengal, Assam, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

UNI

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