Calcutta, June 10: Darjeeling tea planters are demanding a higher subsidy for upgrading bushes.
They want a 110 per cent increase in subsidy, to Rs 50,000 per hectare from Rs 23,750, for rejuvenation, which involves the trimming of bushes.
A much higher subsidy is being sought for uprooting and replanting, whereby new bushes will come up. The Darjeeling Tea Association (DTA) wants the subsidy to go up to Rs 4 lakh per hectare from Rs 1 lakh now.
The Tea Board provides financial assistance for such recast of any old garden in the country to the tune of 25 per cent of the actual cost, either as loan and subsidy. The DTA, however, is demanding a special treatment, in the form of subsidies.
"We believe that separate provisions should be made available for Darjeeling as the gestation period for crops here is high compared to the other tea-growing regions. While it is 4-5 years for tea bushes in the plains, it could be as high as 10 years for the hills. This will also encourage uprooting and replanting. The board is now subsidising it, but at a nominal rate," said S.S. Bagaria, chairman of the DTA.
The Darjeeling planters believe the higher subsidy is the right incentive as activities such as uprooting of bushes may face resistance on account of crop losses in the short-term though production would actually rise over a longer period.
As many as 87 estates grow 8.5 million kg of Darjeeling tea over 17,500 hectares.
"We have submitted our proposals. Now the Planning Commission will have to take the decision," said G. Boria, director of the Tea Board.
"Darjeeling is not the same as say, Dooars. The climate, temperature, work cost are different, too. Loss is high. So, a reformulation of strategy has to be done. Rates will have to be reworked, support will have to be given, for a place which is a jewel in our crown," said D. P. Maheshwari, managing director of Jay Shree Tea, which has six gardens in Darjeeling.