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Bengal small tea growers object to BLFs'' decision to procure only food safety-compliant leaves

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NewsDrum Desk
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Kolkata, Apr 3 (PTI) Small tea growers in West Bengal have written to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee about the "unilateral and autocratic" decision of the bought leaf factories (BLFs) to procure only green leaves which meet the compliance standards of the food safety regulator and maximum residue level (MRL) parameters.

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In the letter to the chief minister, the West Bengal United Forum of Small Tea Growers Association and other similar bodies of north Bengal, said that there are nearly 50,000 small growers which are operational in the region, and close to ten lakh people are either directly or indirectly involved in the trade.

The body of small tea growers (STGs) said that the decision of the BLFs is "one-sided and destructive and it will have an impact on the economy of north Bengal".

There are nearly 248 bought-leaf factories in north Bengal, which source green leaves from STGs.

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Small tea growers, who contribute to more than 65 per cent of the total production in West Bengal, are producing the crop in Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling, Uttar Dinajpur, Cooch Behar and Alipurduar districts.

The North Bengal Tea Producers Welfare Association had on March 29 written to the Tea Board, stating that BLFs will only manufacture tea which is compliant with the norms of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), irrespective of the fact that from where the green leaf was sourced by them.

The association said that BLFs had never used any type of chemicals during the manufacturing process and green leaves were sourced from various small growers in north Bengal.

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In the letter to the Tea Board, the association said that it is "not possible for the BLFs to check the quality of every batch procured by them and it has been decided that factory members will only accept or receive green leaves which are accompanied with the compliance test reports under FSSAI and MRL parameters from April 1, 2024".

Confederation of Indian Small Tea Growers Associations president and Jalpaiguri District Small Tea Growers Association general secretary Bijoy Gopal Chakraborty said, "It is not simply possible for the small growers to comply with the requirements in such a short time. We have already started educating the growers on 'safe tea' and it will take time." The body of STGs, in the letter to the chief minister, also said that the growers are now plucking first flush tea after a gap of three winter months.

"The decision of BLFs will force the STGs to face huge losses and shut down operations", he said.

Meanwhile, various trade unions have also expressed their concern over the decision of BLFs and have also written to the chief secretary and other district administrations in north Bengal. PTI DC BDC

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