Kochi: Tea growers in southern India have sought stern action against anyone selling spurious material after a government agency made its largest seizure of adulterated tea in three years in a raid last week at a tea factory in Tamil Nadu’s Nilgiris district.
The Tea Board, a government trade promotion body, has been conducting raids in the state’s tea factories since 2005 in a drive to prevent adulteration and upgrade quality, and destroyed more than 25,000kg of adulterated tea in the process.
In the latest raid, it seized about 26,000kg of adulterated tea meant for export to Pakistan and Afghanistan. “This blatant large-scale adulteration by a single company comes when south India had succeeded to a great extent in regaining the quality of its tea,” said R.D. Nazeem, executive director of the board, who led the raid at the Dodabetta factory of Kolkata-based Beeyu Overseas Ltd.
Executives at Beeyu Overseas did not return calls made to its Nilgiris and Kolkata offices.
“Since the Pakistan and Afghanistan tea markets prefer dark tea, the company had used chemicals and tea waste to make tea. We had received complaints about the quality of the company’s tea from overseas buyers and had been monitoring its activities,” Nazeem added.
“The culprits should be booked and their licences cancelled. Only that will help improve the image of Indian tea abroad,” said S. Sriram, director of Coimbatore-based export firm Contemporary Tea.
The drive is in the interest of both the industry and consumers, said D.P. Maheswari, president of the United Planters Association of South India. It has brought back respect to south Indian tea, he added.
More than 50 of the 170 small tea makers in the region have shut down after the board launched its drive in 2005. “Some of the factories closed down voluntarily since they were sure they would not be able to cope with the quality standards,” said Nazeem.
The board has taken stepsto establish more than 150cooperative societies representing small growers, and train them in modern tea plucking practices.