Assam Tea Planters to move Union Ministry against AFTA

Golaghat, November 18: The ASEAN Free Trade Agreement which envisages reducing agriculture commodity import tariffs to 50 percent poses a major threat to Assam’s tea planters. The Assam Planters are apprehensive about the prospect of a reduction of import duty on tea from other countries and have decided to move the Union Ministry for Industry and Commerce and Tea Board of India regarding the same.

The planters fear that this agreement will flood the Indian market with cheap quality tea and India tea will not be able to withstand the competition owing to high labour cost, low productivity of labour and land and ever-increasing input cost.

Prabhat Bezboruah, Chairman of Tea Board, said, “The ASEAN free trade agreement was signed in 2007-08 by the then Government under which the present Government is obligated to reduce agriculture commodity import tariffs to 50 percent. However, the government has referred the matter to the Tea Board for our comments and inputs and we have sent our reply objecting to the same with emphasis on the potential risks to our industry.”

North Eastern Tea Association (NETA) adviser Bidyananda Barkakoty said that if the import duty is reduced, India cannot compete with other tea-producing countries primarily because of its low land and labour productivity.

NETA Chairman Manoj Jalan also said that the association will appeal to the Tea Board and the Union Ministry for Industry and Commerce to reconsider this decision.

Edited by: Arnab Jyoti Das