Assam wants tea to go directly from gardens to globe, banks on six airports for agri exports

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December 15, 2020 1:45 AM

Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal said the state having six airports, the highest in the country, was trying to take advantage of the cross-border markets, which could make it an export hub of agricultural produce.

India is the second largest tea producing country of the world and the crop is grown in states like Assam, West Bengal, Kerala among others.(Representative image)India is the second largest tea producing country of the world and the crop is grown in states like Assam, West Bengal, Kerala among others.(Representative image)

Assam government’s focus to tap the BBM (Bangladesh, Bhutan and Mynamar) and ASEAN markets for its agricultural produce will give a major boost to exports of packaged tea over selling tea in bulk form from the gardens.

Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal said the state having six airports, the highest in the country, was trying to take advantage of the cross-border markets, which could make it an export hub of agricultural produce.

“The BBM and ASEAN together make an 80-crore people’s market. We have direct flights from Assam to Singapore, Thailand and Bangladesh,” said Sonowal at an ICC session, adding that the state was in a bid to capture that market and was in the process of creating a suitable infrastructure that would enable exports of perishable agriculture products like vegetables.

As for boosting tea exports, the government was working out to make it directly from the gardens drawing in the entire value chain of tea into Assam and making wider usage of the e -market place.

Rudra Chatterjee, managing director, Luxmi Tea, said instead of selling bulk tea from the gardens, tea can be processed and packaged in the gardens itself and marketed through e -platforms for direct exports. This, on one hand, can save a lot of intermediatory costs and on the other can fetch better revenues.

“We have only sought a 10% subsidy from the government, be it in any form, to bring in the entire value chain to Assam,” Chatterjee told FE.

He said Luxmi Tea has already started doing it after the gardens reopened during the pandemic with orders from the union home ministry and the Assam government in March. The company has been exporting around 5 lakh kgs per month in packaged form fetching a price for raw between Rs 2,000-2,500 per kg. This excludes the cost of processing and packaging.

Processing and packaging of various tea variety such as Green, Olong, Masala, White, Rose and others are at present done in Moran, Narayanpur, Addabari and Kendugiri tea estates of Assam and Mokaibari tea estate of Darjeeling. Such can be extended to many other tea estates.

As for industries, like Hindustan Uniliver and Emami which have set up units in Assam and are looking for export opportunities from the state, a logistics hub entailing an investment of Rs 1000 crore is being built on the banks of the Brahmaputra facilitating direct connectivity with the ports on the of Bay of Bengal coastline, Sonowal said.

“The present incentives for MSMEs will also have to extend for big industries too since industrial investment opportunities have started opening up with direct connectivity established with the BBM and ASEAN markets,” said Sushil Agarwal, managing director of Emami.

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