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Indian tea industry makes major moves on quality side

28 November 2012 04:56 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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The Indian tea industry has adopted a comprehensive plan to upgrade quality and increase production to meet the growing domestic and overseas demand, The Economic Times reported.
The country’s Tea Board has just lined up Rs1.5 billion ($27.25 million) in funding for research and development work, of which Rs.200 million will be spent on developing weather resistant tea clones.

Another Rs.3.5 billion has been earmarked for replanting ageing bushes that are affecting the overall production of Indian tea, which has been stagnating at 980 million kg for a couple of years.
The Indian tea industry is also looking at an inclusive growth and has also earmarked Rs.2 million for improving the condition of its tea estate workers in the 12th plan period that came into effect on April 1 this year.

This is an almost sixfold increase in labour welfare account compared with the 11th five-year plan when a mere Rs.480 million was allocated.
M.K. Bhanu, Chairman of the Tea Board, said, “We have seen that the younger plants are stronger in fighting against insects and pests and so the Tea Research Association and the United Planters’ Association of South India have been given the task of working on developing climate resistant clones.”
He was speaking at the inaugural session of the third India International Tea Convention (IITC) in Goa. Nearly 350 delegates were participating in the IITC, of which 100 were from overseas. Representatives from Kenya, Germany, the UK, the US, Sri Lanka, Mozambique, Egypt, Tanzania and Iran are taking part in the convention, which is the landmark event for all stakeholders in the tea industry.



According to The Economic Times, the biggest concern for Indian tea producers is the ageing tea bushes. In Darjeeling, for example, 75% of tea bushes are between 50 to 100 years old. Data shows that 38% of the bushes in South and North India are between 50 and 100 years of age and therefore, the yield is very low compared with countries such as Kenya and Sri Lanka, where the bushes are relatively young. Bhanu also announced that the Tea Board would clamp down heavily on low quality imports of tea that are meant for re-export.

“Imported teas should comply with the Food Safety Standards Act and will have to obtain certificates by the Tea Board empanelled testing laboratories. We have also formed two tea councils - one in South India and the other in North India, who will keep a stringent vigil on the quality of imported teas,” he said.
C.S. Bedi, Chairman of the Indian Tea Association, said, “Warming trends have been observed in the Northeastern India, the major tea producing region in the country, coupled with a decreasing rainfall. This is the major challenge before the tea industry at present.”

Issues with Pakistan
The IITC also saw further questions over whether India was being careful enough to prevent export of ‘substandard’ teas to neighbouring Pakistan.
Pakistan imported 23.5 million of Indian tea in 2011 and is expected to raise its off take of Indian teas by 28% to 30 million kg in 2012.
The Pakistani delegates pointed out that a large portion of cheap teas imported by India were re-exported to Pakistan after blending as ‘Indian tea’.
They noted that these exports are made at an abnormally low price of around $1 a kg - against the average purchases of teas worth $2 to $2.5 a kg by Pakistani buyers from Indian auctions - and many of these teas have artificial agents in violation of food safety norms imposed by India.
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