Minister launches SPTF for Kerala and TN

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Kochi, Jan 5 (UNI) Union Minister of State for Commerce Jairam Ramesh today launched the Special Purpose Tea Fund (SPTF) for Kerala and Tamil Nadu for the rejuvenation and replantation of old tea estates in the States.

The minister said in the next 15 years about Rs 4,700 core would be spend for rejuvenation and replantation of tea estates across the country, including Rs 1,700 crore in the two States.

''This was a great opportunity and if we lose the SPTF bus, we will lose our tea market to Sri Lanka, Kenya and Vitenam,'' he added.

Mr Ramesh said the repsonse to the SPTF was lukewarm in South India compared to other tea growing States in the country.

''Efforts would be made to make the fund more attractive so that more tea growers would come forward for rejuvenation and replantation of their estates,'' he added The minister said while the amount of tea exports to Iraq was on the decline, exports to Egypt and Iran had increased and these countries were emerging markets for India.

He said tea exports to Pakistan were 16 million kg in 2006, but today the trade had touched only 10 million kg against a target of 30 million kg.

Mr Ramesh said he would go to Pakistan in March to bolster the trade relations between the two countries.

UNI MA KVV SHB RAI1738

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