Posted by: Sujoy Das | March 7, 2012

Does computerisation in a tea estate increase manpower?

I am writing this post from a tea estate in upper Assam where Teapac, our ERP software for tea estates is being implemented. The estate is a large one with six divisions, factory and a crop of around 20 lakh kgs+ per year. The peak season worker strength is around 5000+ dropping to around 2500 in the lean season.

The computer department presently has one person who is handling the accounting work on Tally while the rest of the operations like paybooks,  kamjaris, stores ledgers, factory records etc are being done manually.

A quick review of the workload necessary revealed that another three persons would be required to handle the day to day data entry for the workers as well as to update the stores, accounts, and factory and field records.

When I discussed this with the Senior Manager at the estate he was aghast. “You are asking me to increase manpower, when I thought that adding computers would help me to reduce mandays!”

“There is no way I am going to get a sanction from my Head Office to increase manpower. We have to find some other way out”, he added.

The truth of the matter is that when the daily attendance of 5000+ workers has to be entered manually in the computer system day after day, manpower will be required to run the system.

To circumvent this process and the need for more manpower many estates have gone in for automatic weighment systems  in the field e.g. Easy weigh which is linked to the computer software and leads to reduction in manpower, better accuracy as there is no manual entry and daily uploads to the computer software.

What are the options for the estate without increasing manpower and introducing automatic weighment systems?

Reallocation of the workload

This is a distinct possibility if there are users amongst the staff who are computer literate. The management can reallocate the responsibilities so that some of the computer literate staff are moved to the computer section while their workload in handled by other staff. Further with computerization some of the manual records and registers would be discontinued thus giving the staff some more time for computer data entry.

Asking the individual departments to handle their own computer data entry

This would mean that the Field Mohurers would handle the attendance of the daily guinty books, the Stores Clerk would enter the purchase orders, stores receipts and issues, the Head Clerk/2nd Clerk would look after accounts and so on. This is a system which is in vogue in a lot of gardens today as opposed to the dedicated computer force as discussed above. However this is based on the assumption that the user departments would have manpower that is computer literate or can train them to use the new software. In reality, unless a user has a basic knowledge of MS Word, Excel and e-mail it is doubtful if he would be able to use a windows based ERP system.

Training

Send some of the existing clerical staff for training on basic computer operations, so that there are a pool of operators in the estate who can run the system. This team would be able to handle their own work as well as spend maybe a couple of hours on the computer carrying out the day to day tasks. However most gardens are located away from towns and cities and hence any computer training would perforce have to be done at the garden itself. Very often the trained computer operators can train the other staff at the garden by allocating maybe a fixed time every day for training.

However, these solutions are often not solutions at all as the comments below will reveal!

“My Divisions are far flung. I cannot expect my Field Mohurers to cycle seven to eight kilometers every day in the evening to enter the guinty books after a whole day in the field” said a Manager to me one day.

A valid point and one which must be considered.

“My existing staff is old and not computer literate. They will not be willing to learn computers in this late stage” said another Manager one evening.

I agree that it is unlikely that tea garden “babus” who are on the verge of retirement will be able to learn computers at the fag end of their careers.

I would be interested to learn from other  Estate Managers and  as to how they managed their computerization and what solutions worked for them.

Please do write in with your suggestions and comments!

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The Assam Tribune

March 2nd 2012

GUWAHATI, March 1 – Five tea planters associations and the INTUC-led Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha (ACMS) today arrived at a wage agreement for the daily wage workers of the tea estates of the Brahmaputra Valley for three years since January of the current year. The five tea planters’ associations include Indian Tea Associations (ITA), Tea Association of India (TAI), Bharatiya Cha Parishad (BCP), Assam Tea Planters’ Association (ATPA) and North Eastern Tea Association (NETA).

According to the agreement, the workers of the tea estates would receive daily wages per head at the rate of Rs 84 between January 1, 2012 and December 31, 2012. From January 1, 2013 to December 31, 2013, each of these workers would receive Rs 89 per day, while for the period between January 1, 2014 and December 31, 2014, each of these workers would receive Rs 94 as daily wage.

For the first time in the history of the country’s tea industry, the planters associations and the Cha Mazdoor Sangha also agreed to introduce an incentive to curb absenteeism among the tea workers. Accordingly, an attendance allowance of Rs 1 will be paid to each of those workers who would work for five or more days in a week.

Together with this, the agreement between the tea planters’ associations and the ACMS also states that authorised leave, festival holidays with pay and authorised sick leave will be deemed as a day worked. This allowance would be subject to review after expiry of one year.

The attendance allowance will be introduced from the week beginning on or after March 12. 2012 and will be computed on a week to week basis thereafter.

The arrear wages from January 1, 2012 to February 29, 2012 will be paid by June 30, 2012.

It needs mention here that each of the tea workers of Brahmaputra Valley used to receive Rs 66.50 as daily wage between January 1, 2011 and March 31, 2011. Between April 1, 2011 and June 30, 2012, each of them was entitled to Rs 71.50 as daily wage and between July 1, 2012 and September 30, 2013, each of them was entitled to receive Rs 76.50 per day as per the last wage agreement signed between the planters’ associations and ACMS in 2010.

During the negotiation, the ACMS submitted a charter of demand for an interim increase in wages to make good the regional disparity in wage levels. After protracted discussions, it was agreed to terminate the present agreement covering the period between January 1, 2010 and September 30, 2013 and have a new wage agreement with effect from January 1, 2012, said the agreement.

Meanwhile the management associations and the labour unions had signed a wage agreement for Barak Valley a few days back with the provision of a daily wages of Rs 68, Rs 72 and Rs 75 for the periods respectively between January 1, 2012 and December 31, 2012, January 1, 2013 and December 31, 2013 and January 1, 2014 and December 31, 2014, said tea industry sources.

Posted by: Sujoy Das | March 1, 2012

Tea Board plans district-level meet of small growers

The Hindu

Santanu Sanyal

Kolkata, Feb 28:

The Tea Board, according to its Chairman Mr M.G.V.K. Bhanu, proposes to hold district-level conventions of small tea growers to educate them about proper agricultural practices.

“This will help them produce quality leaves commanding remunerative prices,” Mr Bhanu told Business Line.

The first convention, as he indicated, would be held in the third week of April in Sonitpur district of Assam and leaflets explaining how to produce better crops would be distributed among those to be present. Also, the successful small growers from various States would be invited to narrate their experiences.

Focus on small growers

“We have chosen Sonitpur as the venue for the first convention because the district has as many as 12,500 small growers but we intend to hold similar conventions also in other districts with concentration of small growers,” he said.

Sadly, as the Tea Board Chairman regretted, the policy pursued so far lacked the focus on problems facing nearly two lakh small growers accounting for 26 per cent of the country’s total tea production. No extension service was available to them nor any scientific knowledge or technology either to boost production or improve the quality of leaves. There were other problems too like the problem of marketing, pricing of produce, resource crunch, not-too-satisfactory equation with bought leaf factories, in fact the list was long.

“We will address most of these issues,” he said. “For the 12th Plan, we’ve asked for a good amount for the development of small growers but how much will be the actual allocation is difficult to estimate right now”. He, however, made it clear that the models of Sri Lanka and Kenya would not be replicated here.

“We will have our own model. We want small growers to regroup themselves into self-help groups, set up their own factories and develop own brands,” he observed.

The proposed Small Tea Growers’ Development Directorate, with headquarter in Dibrugarh, Assam, and branches in other places, would start functioning from September, he said. A total of 95 posts were being created for the directorate – 82 of them technical and 13 non-technical.

Meanwhile, in a memorandum presented to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce, the Confederation of Indian Small Tea Growers’ Association has demanded opening of Tea Board’s field offices at Kokrajhar (Assam), Islampur (West Bengal), Waynad (Kerala) and Itanagar (Arunachal Pradesh).

Simplification of schemes

It has also stressed the need for simplification of existing schemes designed to benefit small growers, enforcement of price-sharing formula, introduction of plantation credit card and insurance and welfare schemes for workers in small tea gardens and supplying subsidised fertilisers to these gardens.

In a pre-budget memorandum to the Finance Minister, Mr Pranab Mukherjee, the association has raised similar demands.

Posted by: Sujoy Das | January 19, 2012

Embattled Dooars tea estates scouting for buyers

Live Mint January 19th 2012

Embattled Dooars tea estates scouting for buyers

Some of the gardens in the region have already been shut as owners couldn’t pay wage arrears
Manish Basu
Kolkata: The owners of at least 40 tea estates in West Bengal’s Dooars region say they are looking for buyers because they are unable to cope with the increased cost of producing tea.
Some of the embattled gardens have already been shut because owners couldn’t pay wage arrears, according to the Indian Tea Association (ITA), an industry lobby.
Under pressure from political parties and the state administration, tea garden owners agreed to raise workers’ daily wage by `18 to `85 with effect from 1 April last year. The wage negotiations were concluded in November, and at least half the wage arrears were to be paid before 25 December. ITA says at least one-fifth of the Dooars’ 220-odd tea estates were unable to fully pay the first instalment of back wages by that deadline.

The state’s commerce and industries department-controlled West Bengal Tea Development Corp.(WBTDC) was also not able to pay the wage arrears within the deadline, said Ziaul Alam, secretary, Cha Bagan Majdoor Union, a plantation workers’ union affiliated to the Centre of Indian Trade Unions—the labour arm of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). WBTDC runs two gardens in the Dooars—Hila and Mahua.

On Friday, West Bengal commerce and industries minister Partha Chatterjee had said WBTDC was looking to induct partners to “revive” the five tea estates under its control—its other three estates are in Darjeeling. All of them, he admitted in a public speech, are currently losing money. Read More…
Posted by: Sujoy Das | January 5, 2012

Tea board to relook price sharing formula

Return to frontpage

Santanu Sanyal

KOLKATA, JAN. 4:

Tea Board of India has decided to take a fresh look at the prevailing price sharing formula which is supposed to ensure a remunerative price to small tea growers as well as a fair return to bought leaf factories. The present formula, modelled after the one at Sri Lanka, incorporated in Tea Market Control Order (TMCO) and introduced in 2004, has not yielded the desired results so far mainly to due the lack of transparency.

At a high-level meeting here on Wednesday, Mr M G V K Bhanu, Chairman of Tea Board, announced the formation of a study team to examine the relevant issues relating to the price sharing formula and publication of a report. Based on the findings of the report, unlikely to be ready before 2013 as a full season would be covered, it was indicated that the relevant provisions of the TMCO might be amended. The representatives of Indian Tea Association and Tea Association of India, among others, were also present.  Read More…

Posted by: Sujoy Das | January 2, 2012

Tea Industry: Tea Board office moves to Jorhat

The Telegraph North East

Jorhat, Jan. 1: The decision of the Tea Board of India to shift its regional office from Guwahati to Jorhat and set up a separate directorate for small tea growers in Dibrugarh, has been widely hailed by the tea industry in Upper Assam.

Former chairman of Assam Tea Planters’ Association and tea planter Raj Barooah said Jorhat being considered the tea capital as well as the cultural capital of Assam, it was definitely a very good move to shift the office from Guwahati to Jorhat.

“Upper Assam is the tea belt of Assam and contributes to the largest amount of tea to the country. Historically also if one sees, it will be seen that tea plantations were started by the British from Jorhat and this part of the state and it is only right that the office be located here,” Barooah said. Read More…

Posted by: Sujoy Das | January 2, 2012

Teapac: 2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,400 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 57 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Posted by: Sujoy Das | December 22, 2011

MARS Group acquires 5 closed tea estates in Dooars

December 21st 2011

The Economic Times

KOLKATAMARS Group of companies, the largest importer of Gurjan timber in India and leading producer of plywood and face veneer, has acquired five tea estates in North Bengal. The tea eardens which the company has acquired are Raimatang, Kalchini, Buxa Dooars and two more in the same area. The company aims to invest Rs 100 crore for acquiring more tea gardens in eastern India.

Mr. Roshan Lal Agarwal, chairman and managing director of the company said: “Last year, MARS Group had taken the decision to take over of closed tea gardens in Dooars region of north Bengal. We have not only sorted out and overcome the problems regarding various issues including many statutory settlements and other associated problems.  Read More…

Posted by: Sujoy Das | November 23, 2011

Tea Industry: Revamp Marketing Policy

The Telegraph North East
23rd November 2011
Tea industry stirs success recipe
Revamp marketing policy: UK scientist

WASIM RAHMAN

Prof. Mark Kibblewhite of Cranfield University. Telegraph picture

Jorhat, Nov. 22: Assam tea has failed to capture the market in the very country whose planters made it a marketable commodity in the state 150 years ago.

The situation, however, can be turned around with a better marketing strategy, Mark Kibblewhite, an eminent tea scientist and a professor at Cranfield University in the UK, told The Telegraph on the sidelines of World Tea Science Congress which began at Tocklai Experimental Station at Cinnamara, on the outskirts of this town, today.

The professor said Assam tea had a considerable demand in the UK but was not easily available. While varieties from across the world are found on the shelves of shopping malls there and are picked up by buyers, the availability of Assam tea is very limited and one might find it only in a small corner of a shelf.

Read More…

Posted by: Sujoy Das | November 15, 2011

Tea News: Revision in Terai and Dooars wage rates Nov 4th 2011

The Telegraph
Saturday , November 5 , 2011
Rate now: Rs 85 a day

– Plains tea workers get Rs 18 raise

OUR BUREAU

Nov. 4: The wages for workers of the Terai and Dooars tea gardens were revised at a tripartite meeting in Calcutta today, the hike of Rs 18 making it almost equal to the amount that the workforce in the Darjeeling gardens has been getting since April this year.

According to the three-year agreement, the daily wage of the workers will be Rs 85 for the current year, Rs 90 for 2012-2013 and Rs 95 for the financial year ending on March 31, 2014 (see chart).

Earlier, the daily wage in the plains gardens with 2.5 lakh workers had been Rs 67.

Read More…

Posted by: Sujoy Das | August 23, 2011

Tea Garden Payroll Software

Among all the applications which form part of an ERP for tea plantations, the payroll module  is by far is the most critical and important. We have large tea estates with employee strength around 2500 to 3000 workers in the peak season running their payroll on the RDG Teapac system. In my view this application is mission critical as the non payment of wages on pay day is not an option.

So what constitutes a good payroll application?

The main features are summarised below:

  • Fast and efficient daily attendance entry
  • Capturing activity,  green leaf quantity and section number all in the same entry
  • Checklists to verify correct data entry
  • Daily garden kamjaris and analysis of Mandays
  • Summary of work force including sick, maternity, leave, absent etc at a glance.
  • Provident Fund – including Form 1, Form 5, PF ledger, PF advance, Refund
  • Leave Records
  • Leave with wages
  • Bonus
  • Gratuity
  • Rations
  • Census
  • Pay registers
  • Auto Vouchers to the Accounting System for the wages cost activity wise
So the next time you are looking for a payroll software for you tea estate please do consider these features!
Posted by: Sujoy Das | August 6, 2011

Tea Industry News: Planters reject daily wage of Rs 130

The Telegraph August 6th 2011
OUR CORRESPONDENT
TEA EMBARGO BACK
The Bharnobari tea estate on Friday. On Thursday, the manager of the garden, Nanda Kishor Singh, was made to walk more than 2km to the Hashimara police outpost by workers who complained about his alleged highhandedness. Manager Singh had threatened that a lockout would be declared in the garden. But no lockout notice was put up on Friday. Text and picture: Anirban Choudhury

Siliguri, Aug. 5: The despatch of tea from gardens in the Terai and the Dooars was stopped once again this afternoon after talks between trade unions and planters over revision of wages broke down.

An apex body of trade unions has also called a 48-hour strike in the tea sector next week if their demand for a daily wage of Rs 130 a day is not met.

Labour minister Purnendu Bose said another round of tripartite meeting might be called on August 9.

“I might attend the meeting. If the planters remain rigid on their stand, I will have no option but to seek the intervention of the chief minister,” Bose said.

At a tripartite meeting in Calcutta today, planters rejected the demand of the Defence Committee for Plantation Workers’ Rights, which wants Rs 130 as daily wage for the garden labourers.

The Defence Committee is one of the apex bodies of tea trade unions in north Bengal.

The Progressive Tea Workers’ Union (PTWU), which had initially demanded a daily wage of Rs 250 brought it down to Rs 130 during yesterday’s talks, said intimation to stop the despatch of tea had been sent to the 208 gardens of the region this afternoon.

“We had asked for a daily wage of Rs 130 and were ready to negotiate but the planters insisted on bringing it down further,” said Samir Roy, convener of the Defence Committee.

“So, we have decided to go ahead with our previously announced programme — the strike in the industry on August 10 and 11.”

The Defence Committee has also called a general strike in north Bengal on August 12. “We will appeal to political parties to support us and our strike on the 12th,”said Roy.

The planters admitted that the strikes next week would hit the industry hard.  Read More…

Posted by: Sujoy Das | July 8, 2011

Tea deficit to be 100 mn kg this yr

BS Reporter / Kolkata July 8, 2011, 0:49 IST

The domestic tea industry is likely to end the year with a production deficit of 100 million kg, despite good weather conditions and a higher crop.

Last year, during January-December, production was 966 million kg and the industry expects it to be 990 million kg this year. The increase in production will just about take care of the yearly consumption increase. On an average, the domestic consumption increases by about 30 million kg every year.

“The year started with a shortfall of 100 million kg. I dont think the production increase will mitigate the deficit. It will be enough to absorb the consumption increase. But this year looks much stronger than the previous year when we lost crop during the quality period,” Aditya Khaitan, managing director of the world’s largest bulk tea producer, McLeod Russel (India), said.

Tea prices have risen Rs 15-20 a kg. Tea stocks reflected the sentiments voiced by the industry. The McLeod Russel stock touched a high of Rs 287.90 on the Bombay Stock Exchange, a 52-week high. Jayshree Tea and Industries also scaled a high of Rs 181.90, close to its 52-week high of Rs 210 a share.

“What has led to the firming of prices is a global shortfall,” industry representatives pointed out. Week-to-week prices at Mombasa auctions showed that prices were up by 60 to 70 cents. Africa has registered a shortfall of 45 million kg till now. The industry expects that the annual global shortfall to be around 55 million kg.

“Last year, our exports were at 22 million kg. This year, we have a target of 25-26 million kg,” Khaitan said.

Both crop and production were up in May, officials of the Indian Tea Association said.

According to figures on the Tea Board website, up to May, the crop was higher by eight million kg at 243 million kg. May alone saw an increase of 3.5 million kg in production. The increase was primarily in Assam and North Bengal, while south India actually saw a marginal dip in production.

Up to April, production was down by 5 million kg.

Exports for May were up but by less than a million kg. The unit price of exports saw a huge jump from Rs 141.28 a kg from Rs 115.84 a kg last year.

Exports at the beginning of the season, however, were down. During April to May, exports stood at 22 million tonnes while in the previous year they were close to 24 million tonnes.

The Indian Tea Association is yet to release the latest figures, but both crop and production were up for the month of May, officials of the association said. Exports for May were up by one million kg. Till March, world production was down by 31 million kg.

Industry representative indicated that if the weather conditions maintained the current pattern then the year would close with a deficit of about 155 million kg.

RDG Systems and Software Pvt Ltd has signed an agreement with Badulipar Limited, owners of Koomtai Tea Estate for installation and implementation of Teapac, an ERP software for the tea industry. Koomtai is the biggest tea estate in the Jorhat  district with an area under tea of 1200 hectares with the processing factory producing about 22 lacs kg tea annually.This estate has six independent divisions with 8 Asst. Managers , 2 welfare officers 2 medical officers, 118 sub staff,, 88 staff members and 2500 permanent workers and about 3000 casual workers . This is presently the single largest estate in the RDG stable  which will run Teapac. We look forward to a speedy and efficient implementation and thank Mr Mayank Saraf and his team for placing  his  faith in RDG.

Posted by: Sujoy Das | June 14, 2011

Tea Industry News: Mechanical Harvesting of Tea

An interesting article on mechanical harvesting of tea by Harki Sidhu

http://teachai.blogspot.com/2011/06/mechenical-harvesting-of-tea.html

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