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Panel urges uniform loan package for small tea growers

Our Bureau

New Delhi , March 17

THE Standing Parliamentary Committee on Commerce has expressed concern over the lacklustre implementation of Special Tea Term Loan (STTL), particularly in South India. The committee also suggested that the Tea Board take steps for uniform implementation of the package for small growers.

In an action report to its earlier study on tea export, tabled in Parliament by its Chairman, Dr Murli Manohar Joshi, it said tea growers, especially small growers, be made aware of the STTL package. Extension programmes of Tea Board and lead banks operating in the tea-growing areas can easily do this. It urged the Tea Board to institute a mechanism to ensure that financial assistance and the income tax exemption, available to the tea industry to plough back its profits for plantation development and modernisation of tea factories, are utilised for the purpose envisaged. It recommended that the plan of action for replanting of tea bushes be finalised without delay. The Government should also expedite finalisation of the scheme for domestic promotion of tea to be financed out of the Special Fund, it said.

It said the Tea Act should be amended suitably to enable the board to function more effectively.

Noting that the value added tax (VAT) was likely to be implemented in most of the States effective from April 1 at 12.5 per cent, the committee said this rate of VAT would be too high and the interest would be adversely hit. Hence, the issue should be considered in positive perspective to bring down the rate suitably. The committee emphasises the need to expedite the process for registration of India Tea logo in various markets and for the development of quality logo for the domestic market. It further asked the Tea Board to follow up with the Prevention of Food Adulteration (PFA) Authority the early finalisation of the process of fixation of maximum residue limits in respect of other chemicals and completion of experiments on other chemicals.

Finally, the House Panel asked the Centre to expedite decision on the proposal for declaring Darjeeling tea growing area as an agricultural economic zone (AEZ) to boost tea exports. Considering the high cost of fuel and the inflation factor, the Government should take an early view on the proposal to hike transport subsidy up to Rs 2 per kg, the committee added.

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