Centre and Tea Industry enters into big fight at convention

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Guwahati, Nov 23 (UNI) The Tea industry and Union Commerce Ministry today headed for a showdown at the on-going Tea convention of the India International Trade Fair (IITF).

The convention, drawing over 500 delegates from more than 24 countries, was inaugurated last night.

The argument heated up when the Union Commerce Ministry asked the Tea Industry to do away with colonial style business, that was incurring huge loss due to major overhead expenditure. But the Tea industry stood for a social security expenditure.

''The Tea industry should leave behind the 'Burra Sahib'(British) lifestyle to be in competition in the international market,'' Union Minister of State for Commerce Jairam Ramesh said.

Consultative Committee of Plantation Association Chairman Aditya Khaitan, on behalf of the tea industry, however, informed that huge social responsibility had crippled the industry's future.

Mr Ramesh said the tea industry, which once ruled the roost, was no more aggressive with Sri Lanka and Kenya taking its position.

''The industry has an annual turnover of just Rs 6,500 crores at the farm-gate level provides employment to about 1.25 million people and socio-economic support to another 1.2 million dependants.'' Mr Khaitan argued.

However, Mr Ramesh stressed on an attitudinal change and proper marketing strategies to be taken by the Tea honchos to make the 160-year-old industry more commercially viable in the global market.

The minister also ridiculed the Tea manufacturers here saying that depite sharing a common border, Pakistan, the second biggest importer of tea, does not opt for Indian tea.

The industry have been been bearing the burden of welfare and social security cast by statutory provisions, framed during the British rule, and is still regulated by a plethora of laws relating to this.

He reiterated that the tea industry needs to change the old laws and systems keeping in mind the rapid economic growth of the country.

The Plantation labour Act was enacted in 1951 and sought to ensure social security and welfare provisions of housing, medicare, education for the vast numbers of workers.

''We must think of exporting what people want, not just what we produce,'' Mr Ramesh suggested.

UNI

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