KOCHI: The Central Travancore Planters’ Association (CTPA) has urged the Central and State governments to intervene to mitigate and safeguard the tea plantations from the crisis the plantation sector is facing.
According to CTPA chairman K Oommen Abraham, the tea district of Central Travancore is facing challenges, including low yields due to old and weak bushes; high vacancy percentage; and high pest infestation and diseases, which result in low yields and high production costs. It is the oldest tea plantation district in South India, dating back to 1867.
The tea district covers major holdings of around 10,000 hectares of tea, as well as 3,500 hectares held by small growers. “The cost of tea production has escalated by about 60 per cent over the last three years, with wages increasing 19 per cent in the last one year. Over and above the basic wages, the organised plantation sector bears over 70 per cent of the costs to meet social costs. With the radical drop in tea prices to `84 per kilo, which is not viable, the mismatch between production cost and price realisation is widening,” he said in a statement.
“Along with this, the wages of plantation workers have kept pace with the escalating Cost of Living Index on account of the increase in VDA. Meanwhile, the managements, despite the severe cash crunch, ensured that they comply with the statutory obligation to disburse the wages on time,” he said.
He pointed out that the increase in the basic land tax by 150 per cent and the unique Kerala plantation tax of `700 per hectare, along with building tax, had set the cost structure unviable.
“With a 48 per cent wage increase in the tea sector over the last 24 months, and the rise in other costs, we are afraid that the low tea prices would lead to a crisis similar to that the sector faced in 1999-2006, when a large number of estates ceased operation,” he added.