A press release stated that the decision was taken at a cabinet meeting held at the chief minister’s residence yesterday evening. A formal notification is expected to be issued by the state government in a day or two.
Tarun Gogoi, chief minister of Assam, had in November last year declared tea as the ‘State Drink’ of Assam and the cabinet yesterday approved the same. Gogoi had also assured the industry to try and convince the Centre to declare the beverage as the ‘National Drink’ of India.
Recently, a parliamentary standing committee on commerce, which was constituted on August 31, 2011, and submitted its report on August 9, 2012, had recommended that tea be given the status of ‘National Drink’.
Welcoming the decision of Assam cabinet, Bidyananda Barkakoty, chairman of North Eastern Tea Association (NETA) said tea had been the only industry where Assam could retain its leadership for over a century.
“Way back on May 8, 1838, three hundred and fifty pounds of Assam tea were dispatched to London and sold at India House, London, on January 10, 1839. Since then, over the last 174 years, it is the only industry where Assam has retained its leadership”, Barkakoty said.
“Tea is indigenous to Assam and is an area where Assam can take a lot of pride. Southern China and Assam are the only two regions in the world with native tea plants”, added Rajib Barooah, chairman of Assam Tea Planters’ Association (ATPA).
The tea industry is one of the largest employers in Assam. Assam tea industry employs around 7 lakh permanent workers and another 5 lakh seasonal workers. Another 10 lakh persons are dependent on Assam tea industry.
Around 50 per cent of workers are women and hence, Assam tea industry is the single largest employer of women. More than 3,50,000 hectares area is under tea cultivation in Assam.
Barkakoty said this formal declaration of tea as the ‘State Drink’ will bolster the marketing of Assam tea. “Tea is now accepted as a health drink world over. This fact coupled with the “State Drink” tag will also attract the large youth population of the region towards this health beverage,” he added.
The tea industry expects that the ‘State Drink’ status to the beverage would increase its per capita consumption in Assam from 650 gm and help touch the national average which is about 730 gm.Assam’s share to the total tea production of India is around 55 per cent.