GUWAHATI: The Assam government Monday demanded that tea be accorded the status of the "national drink" and the Tea Board head office be shifted from Kolkata to Assam, the country's most important tea-growing region.
Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi made the demand in his address to a stakeholders' meeting here in which union Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman took part.
"Declaring tea as the national drink of our country will in no way affect the growth of other beverages and they will always have their own respective market shares," argued Gogoi, saying that declaration of mango as the national fruit of India has not restricted the growth of apple or other fruits.
Gogoi also asked the Centre for a special package for the revival of Assam Tea Corporation Limited (ATCL).
As Gogoi was unwell, his prepared address was read out by state Industry and Commerce Minister Pradyut Bordoloi.
He said the state government would promote "Assam Tea" as a brand in the international market.
The Assam government has already declared tea as the official State Drink of Assam and plans to participate in the international trade fairs outside the country to promote Assam Tea.
On the need for shifting the Tea Board of India's headquarters to Assam, Gogoi said: "One reason is that in sharp contrast to all other Commodity Boards i.e. coffee, rubber, spices and tobacco whose headquarters are located in the State where the product is mainly grown, Tea Board is the only exception as its headquarters are not located in Assam.
"The Tea Board head office should ideally be situated in Assam which will give an impetus to its activities in the most important tea-growing region."
The Tea Board functions through its two zonal offices, one of which is located at Jorhat, amidst the major tea producing region in Assam. This Zonal Office caters to the entire North East which produces around 54 percent of the country's tea.
"It is imperative that it plays a dynamic role in supporting the tea industry and implementing welfare schemes for the tea garden workers along with new initiatives like setting up auction centres at Jorhat and Silchar, which will help the producers in selling their produce quickly from the date of manufacture and will bring down the cost of selling, thereby attracting more producers to take the auction route," he said.
"Further, there is a need to modernize the packaging of tea in Assam... There is an acute dearth of packaging expertise in Assam which is essential to create demand in the export markets. The Government of India may emphasise on these areas as these steps are essential if there is to be an overall increase in exports of tea from India," said the chief minister.