Small tea growers today contribute nearly 35 to 40 per cent of the total production of Assam and the issue of concern is of their quality and the maximum residue limit.
A maximum-residue level (MRL) is the highest level of a pesticide residue that is legally tolerated in or on food when pesticides are applied correctly.
The chairman of Assam Branch Indian Tea Association, Talat Ahmed, raised the issue at the 126th annual general meeting of the association in Jorhat last month.
He said as quality leaf and MRL issues are in focus, the small tea growers need to ensure supply of good quality leaf with special emphasis on transportation of leaf and protecting its quality.
“The reason why this initiative has to be started is that small tea growers are deprived of training by a research organisation like Tocklai though some training is being given by different agencies,” S.K. Pathak, deputy director, advisory services Assam, Tocklai Tea Research Institute, told The Telegraph.
The small tea growers will be grouped into small clusters of 30 to 40 to impart effective training which will be done three times a year during March-April, June-July and October-November.
“One demonstration plot will be identified in each cluster and field practices will be shown. The topics to be discussed are nursery, pruning, plucking, pest management, shade management, nutrition management and drainage,” Pathak said.
Reading material will be provided in Assamese on each topic, so that they can refer to it whenever required. “A feedback mechanism will be developed to monitor impact of such training on improvement in yield, quality and pesticide residue in made tea,” he said.
Officials in the meeting said the small tea growers present in the programme have highly appreciated the initiative and were hopeful that a long-pending need of theirs will be fulfilled through the system.
Pathak said initially the programme will be confined to the small tea growers supplying tea leaf to the gardens of Amalgamated Plantations Private Limited, which may be extended to small tea growers supplying leaf to other companies also if any company comes forward to support such programmes.
“It is in everybody’s interest to come forward and support the initiative as the concerns of quality and maximum residue limit are too big to be ignored,” he said.