Darjeeling tea industry suffers Rs 200cr loss due to lockdown, seeks govt help

Kolkata, May 8 (PTI) The Darjeeling Tea Association on Friday said the planters in the hills of West Bengal have lost an estimated production of 1.5 million kg due to the lockdown, resulting in a revenue loss of Rs 200 crore.

The planters' body has already written to the Tea Board, seeking its intervention to release fund from 'the sanctioned onetime revival package' for the Darjeeling tea industry for the setback that it had suffered due to unprecedented closure in 2017.

The planters also urged immediate disbursement of the pending subsidies on a priority basis.

Due to the suspension of work for 20 days during its peak period in the wake of the lockdown, the industry has estimated first flush production loss of 95 per cent, the planters said, adding that 10 per cent of second flush output is also expected to be washed out.

They said the industry is export dependent and 70 per cent of its annual revenue comes from overseas markets.

'The loss of production and revenue of the Darjeeling tea industry is estimated at 1.5 million kg and Rs 200 crore respectively in the current season,' the letter said.

The planters pointed out that Germany, Japan, the US and the UK, major importers of Darjeeling tea, have been affected due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Even in the domestic market, the industry is 'under threat from cheap Nepal tea' which is often sold as Darjeeling variety.

The planters' body alleged that such illicit practice is rampant due to non-enforcement of IPR.

Earlier, the board has sought suggestions from the DTA for interventions required to bring the industry on the recovery path.

Unlike the tea industry of other origin, the planters in the hills of West Bengal have been reeling under 'severe crisis' due to the prolonged closure in 2017, the DTA said in its letter.

The association also said that credit ratings of the Darjeeling tea industry have already been downgraded by banks and financial institutions since 2017.

DTA has also sought 50 per cent air freight subsidy for exports, enhancement of orthodox subsidy and launch of promotional campaign.

The association has also urged the Tea Board to facilitate the industry to get the assistance from the government for payment of Rs 1,000 per worker per week in lieu of wages and salaries for three months. PTI dc BDC BDC