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Assam tea sector’s power woes: cost up,quality down

While the power scenario in Assam remains one of the worst in the country,the state’s Rs 2000-crore tea industry has been the worst sufferer in the absence of any other major power-intensive industrial activity

Written by Samudra Gupta Kashyap | Guwahati |
June 25, 2012 3:32:52 am

While the power scenario in Assam remains one of the worst in the country,the state’s Rs 2000-crore tea industry has been the worst sufferer in the absence of any other major power-intensive industrial activity.

“The tea industry is in deep crisis because of the state’s poor power situation. Believe it or not,any given tea factory has been experiencing anywhere between 150 to 200 power interruptions a month. This has not only affected the quality of tea,but the cost has also shot up because we have to immediately switch over to diesel generators,” said Dhiraj Kakati,secretary of the Assam Branch Indian Tea Association (ABITA).

Kakati said while the tea industry requires uninterrupted power supply for 12 to 18 hours a day,the Assam State Electricity Board (ASEB) or its subsidiary power generation and supply companies in recent months have not been capable of maintaining such uninterrupted supply for a single day. As a result,he said,the quality of tea has fallen,and expensive machinery in tea factories has suffered damage. “Even when there are less interruptions on a given day,the voltage either remains low or fluctuates,leading to more problems,especially in maintenance of machinery,” Kakati said.

A rough estimate prepared by the Indian Tea Association says that the industry in Assam hardly gets 65 per cent of the required power from the ASEB and its subsidiary companies. “Since tea leaves are perishable commodities,we have to immediately switch over to diesel gensets,which in turn takes up our cost for power by more than 50 per cent,” he pointed out. While power supplied by the ASEB costs about Rs 8 per unit,the diesel generation leads to a cost of about Rs 12 per unit,Kakati said.

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Assam is at present facing around 450 MW of power shortage during the peak load hours,while its shortfall during the off-peak load hours has been around 230 MW. Power availability during the peak load hours has been around 650 MW against a demand of around 1,100 MW.

The small-scale and service sectors also remain terribly affected. “A large number of small-scale units have closed down due to non-availability of power. There have been several complaints of machinery breakdown due to abrupt power-cuts. The scene is really bad,” said R S Joshi,president of the Federation of Industry & Commerce,North-Eastern Region (FINER).

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