Kolkata: The tea industry has sought a financial package from the Centre to tide over the coronavirus crisis as production in the gardens came to a halt in the wake of the ongoing 21-day nationwide lockdown, an official said on Monday.
The Consultative Committee of Plantation Associations (CCPA), the largest body of tea producers in the country, wrote a letter to the Union commerce ministry, seeking a relief package for the sector which is “passing through an acute financial crisis” in the last five years.
In view of the production loss during peak season and disruption in value chain due to the lockdown, the sector is facing a severe cash flow problem, impeding its ability to cope with wage and other related obligations, CCPA chairman Vivek Goenka said in the letter on Sunday.
“We appeal for a financial package from the government to ride over the crisis and help secure employment of around 1.2 million workers engaged in this sector,” it said.
The CCPA sought the government’s intervention to support the wage payments through “direct transfer of Rs 1,000 per week into the workers’ accounts for three months”.
The financial requirement for tea workers of West Bengal and Assam will be around Rs 1,100 crore, the planters’ body said, adding that it sought “subsidisation of employers’ portion of PF contribution for three months, which will have a financial impact of Rs 145 crore”.
Tea Board deputy Chairman Arun Kumar Ray said, “We are fully aware of the problems of the industry in this period of crisis. Whatever representation is sent to us, we will forward them with the request for taking further action.
“We are not sure how long the lockdown will continue.
Ultimately, all representations will have to go the finance ministry for its approval.”
The industry body also pleaded with the government for granting a moratorium for one year on all loan repayment along with interests to prevent the companies from defaults.
It also sought interest subvention at a rate of 3 per cent on all working capital and term loans.
The CCPA has also requested the Centre to provide assistance under various government schemes such as MNREGA, Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana and free gas cylinders under PM Ujjwala programme.
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