Kochi: Trying to deal with cases of significant adulteration of exported tea, a proposal to have test samples of tea consignments to Pakistan, Iraq and Egypt is being finalized by the Tea Board, the Indian government’s trade promotion body.
In early August, Tea Board officials and others raided a factory near Coonoor in Tamil Nadu and shut it down after detecting alleged massive adulteration. Since then, the tea industry has been demanding stern steps for quality assurance of tea consignments moving out from the country, says Basudeb Banerjee, chairman of the board.
The raid had led to seizure of nearly 26 tonnes of spurious tea manufactured using chemicals and tea waste, allege Tea Board officials. The material was meant for export to Pakistan and from there to Afghanistan, they said. R.D. Nazeem, board executive director, said the factory has since been shut down and a show cause notice issued, prior to an actual suspension of the export licence.
Industry demand : A tea garden near Agartala, Tripura. Tea Board officials say the industry has been asking for stern quality-assurance steps after the seizure of about 26 tonnes of spurious tea meant for export. PTI
This isn’t the first time that issues have cropped up with Indian tea exports.
In 2006, India exported 41.33 million kg of tea, valued at Rs212 crore, to Iraq at an average unit price of about Rs51 a kg, the highest volume shipped to any country that year. However, issues of non-payment by Iraq cropped up with the buyers claiming that some of the tea was of inferior quality.
While the non-payment issue has largely been settled and some 5 million kg of tea already sent to Iraq since April, tea sellers want to make sure no new quality issues crop up.
Banerjee said there have been multiple suggestions from the industry. While one group wanted mandatory pre-shipment sample tests for all tea to be sold below $1.5-1.75 (about Rs70-80) a kg, there was also the view that samples of only consignemnts going to Pakistan, Iraq and Egypt, which is an emerging market for Indian tea, be tested.
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Since the price quoted for tea going to these countries could be lower than $2, there were fears of adulteration.
Banerjee said having mandatory pre-shipment tests for all consignments would bring back the days of bureaucratic control. According to him, an expert panel can test the quality and give clearance within a short period so that shipments will not be affected.
D.P. Maheswari, president of the United Planters Association of Southern India, says pre-shipment tests can help improve the image of the commodity being exported. According to him, pre-shipment tests for chilli, made mandatory by the Spices Board in 2004 following discovery of a cancer-causing dye in imported chillies by the European Union, had helped improve the image of the Indian chilli.
“There has to be an assurance to the markets buying from here that the material they get will meet the best of quality norms. There has to be a quality-ensuring mechanism in place so that markets outside can readily buy from here,” says N. Dharmaraj, convener of the Golden Leaf India Awards, a contest for tea manufactured in south India.
N. Sriram, chief executive of Coimbatore-based Contemporary Tea Auctioneers Pvt. Ltd, says the export markets should also be informed about the steps being taken to ensure quality. According to him, a group of experts in the tea sector should be entrusted with checking the quality.