To address the labour shortfall, Tea Board has established a major field mechanization subsidy program that also includes small producers in the Board’s schemes to enhance specialty tea output.
Tea Board’s Executive Director M Balaji, ‘Tea Board pays around ₹ 18-20 crore to various stakeholders in South India every year. Tea farms in South India are currently experiencing a serious labour shortage, particularly for collecting high-quality green leaves and other cultural activities. South Indian tea estates are confronting a high cost of production as wages have risen in recent years.’
Further, he added that, ‘the labour scarcity has resulted in longer plucking rounds, which has harmed the quality of tea manufacturing.’
Mechanizing field operations is one solution to the labour shortfall, but small producers must be taken into account.
‘The tea small growers are the most important stakeholders. Many small producers produce specialty teas, which are well-liked by consumers. They are, however, experiencing some difficulties in marketing their items. In places like the Nilgiris, small producers account for roughly half of overall tea production.’
‘Tea Board has established a special package for the provision of financial assistance to small tea growers in order to bring more small growers into the Tea Board’s programs to increase specialty tea production and marketing. To begin, a pilot project has been launched in the Nilgiris district as part of the Tamil Nadu government’s Special Area Development Programme.’ Balaji reveals.
He stated that the Tamil Nadu government has approved a total of ₹ 1.21 crore for four schemes: Special Assistance for Pruning Machines and Mechanical Harvesters (Battery Operated); Special Scheme for Setting Up Organic Tea and Other Specialty Tea Boutiques; Special Scheme for Tea Promotion Start-Ups for Unemployed Small Tea Grower Youth; and Setting Up of Mini Tea Factory by Self-Help Groups.
In the first phase, 275 people were given ₹ 30 lakh to buy 200 battery-operated harvesters and 75 trimming equipment.
Similarly, a subsidy of ₹ 40 lakh has been granted to four beneficiaries for the establishment of organic tea and specialty tea boutiques, a subsidy of ₹ 20 lakh has been granted to two unemployed youth from small grower families for the establishment of start-ups, and a subsidy of ₹ 20 lakh has been granted to two self-help groups for the establishment of a mini tea factory.
‘In due course, these new ventures will be expanded to other regions,’ Balaji stated.