Farm loan waiver to help small tea growers

KOLKATA: The finance minister's farm loan waiver will help 1.10 lakh small tea growers become more competitive. Small growers contribute 25% to the national tea production, which stood at 940 million kg in 2007. The Budget has also abolished cash transaction tax, which was a burden to the tea industry in particular. "Nearly 80% tea estate workers do not have bank accounts and have to be paid in cash. For the tea industry, which is yet to come out of a crisis, this tax was an added burden,' Ambootia group chairman Sanjay Bansal said. There are 3 million direct workers in the country's tea estates. The estates also provide indirect employment to some 1.5 million people. The wage bill of the industry is around Rs 80 crore. The payment to workers are made on weekly, fortnightly or monthly basis.