"The current crisis is taking the industry back to the worst ever period the tea growers had at the beginning of this century, as nosediving price has its effect on green leaf prices", Vijayan Rajes, President, UPASI, said in a statement here.
Around 70,000 small and marginal tea growers with a land holding of about 49,000 hectares in the South depend wholly on
tea for livelihood and almost half of the production is contributed by this segment with the tea leaves supplied to the bought leaf factories.
Besides, Kanan Devan Hill Plantations Company, a member of UPASI would be one particular vulnerable entity in this situation, with its unique ownership pattern of around 12,000 employees owning 69 per cent of the shares, he said.      

Tea prices in South India with average price during 2014 up to September is dropping to Rs 85 per kg from Rs 105 during the corresponding period last year, a drop of 17 per cent, he said.
At the same time, wages have gone up between 9 to 19 per cent in the tea producing states of Karnataka, Tamilnadu and Kerala, Rajes said.
The huge increase in wages which has no linkage to productivity coupled with spiraling costs of other inputs like fertilisers have crippled the tea plantations, which is on the verge of collapse, he said.

Co-relation of wage and price level is an easily assessable health indicator of the tea industry, Rajes said.
When the daily wage in Tamil Nadu was Rs 8.20 in 1980, the average price was Rs 12.66 a kg.

The equation gradually changed and in 1995 both were almost at par -- daily wage at Rs 39.88 and average price at Rs 41.25 a kg, he added.
If this situation continued, most companies will find it difficult to even pay the wages or salaries on time, he said.
UPASI, Rajes said, wants both Central and State Governments to put in place immediate relief measures to safe guard plantations, which supported large number of workers and their families and preserve ecologically sensitive hilly terrains from environmental degradation.

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