JHAPA, Aug 17: Tea farmers in Jhapa have launched protest against tea producers, stating that the latter were fixing price of green leaves arbitrarily.
Dispute over price of green leaves is a recurring problem in Jhapa. However, the joint decision of farmers, industrialists and Nepal Tea and Coffee Development Board (NTCDB) to fix price on par with the Indian market had helped resolve the problem in the past. Dispute over price of green leaves has resurfaced after local farmers started protest, demanding 'appropriate' price for green leaves.
While Sana Kisan Jhapali Tea Farmers Association as launched the protest demanding hike in price of green leaves, other agencies have shown reluctance to address the price review demand. Small farmers have been staging a sit-in at the Birtamod-based office of NTCDB, accusing the board of turning deaf ear toward their demands.
The association has argue that the protest was intended to end exploitation of farmers by the tea producers. Purna Karki, chairperson of the association, said that they would continue the sit-in and other protest until their demands are met. He said that they resorted to protest as the agreements that they had signed with the board earlier remained unimplemented.
Farmers have long been demanding that price of green leaves be fixed in line with the price in India.
Karki also said the tea producers have not implemented the agreement signed on June 12, 2014.
“The industrialists have not even paid the price set by the board last time,” Karki said. "Lately, the board has tilted toward industrialist and setting the price as per their interest."
According to Karki, farmers have been receiving only advance payment from industries and denying price that they have been offering. He also demanded formation of a high-level judicial committee to adjust the price. Similarly, he also urged the government to immediately provide subsidies that the government has pledged.
Sudip Shrestha, joint secretary of the association, said that the industrialists have not attended joint meeting after farmers demanded that the price of green leaves should be fixed in line with the price in India.
Karki says that the dispute can be resolved only if the government takes needful initiatives.
Jhapa farmers produce 30 million kilograms of green tea leaves every year. Tea plantation has been done in 3,500 bigha in the district. Nearly, 3,000 families in the district are involved in tea farming.