Cost of fertilizer constitutes substantial portion of production cost of the tea, which is a major economic pillar for the industrially backward foothills region of Bengal. Eventually the withdrawal notification by state agriculture department has initiated a major stir in entire tea producing area in the state hill and foothills.
“It is very unfortunate and a major blow on the ailing tea industry. We strongly protest this decision,” said P. K. Bhattacharya, Secretary General of Tea Association of India while reacting over the state Government notice in this regard.
As per the state agricultural department notice, no seller will be allowed to sell fertilizer at subsidized rate to any tea plantation in Jalpaiguri District, the key tea producing area of the state. “I am sure Darjeeling and other districts of the state with plantations will also have the same directive soon,” said Bhattacharya.
The main two components of fertilizers mostly used in tea sector are Urea and MOP (Muriate of Potash). According to Terai Indian Planters Association Chairman Mahendra Bansal, a kg urea costs Rs 6.5 after subsidy of around Rs 19. For MOP, the price is Rs 15 a kg after around Rs 10 subsidy.
“Cost of fertilizer comes around 1.5% – 2% of the production cost of around Rs 160 per kg. Without subsidy, this will go up to over 5% for our total processed tea output of around 380 million kg in Bengal ,” said Bansal.
Planters calculated the withdrawal to push up their total annual fertilizer cost from around 90 crore to near Rs 300 crore for entire tea arena in Bengal.
When contacted, none was found in the concerned state agriculture department to comment on possible reason behind the state Government’s decision to withdraw the subsidy that is primarily provided by central Government.