Mumbai: The Union government is firming plans to apply in Europe the so-called geographical indication (GI) tags for Indian orthodox teas, said Jairam Ramesh, minister of state for commerce and power.

To start with, steps have been initiated to register GI status for Darjeeling tea in Europe as current registrations are only for India, said Ramesh, who was in Tamil Nadu recently to accord GI status for orthodox teas grown in the Nilgiris district.

Legal protection: Jairam Ramesh, union minister of state for power and commerce, says steps have been initiated to register the status. Hemant Mishra / Mint

A GI is a product name associated with a certain region, and cannot be used by similar products from other regions. The status would identify it globally as unique for qualities exclusively attributed to the place of its origin and confer legal protection against unauthorized use of the name by other producers.

GI status also gives these orthodox teas a competitive edge in the global market, said Ramesh.

Basudev Banerjee, chairman of the Tea Board of India, a government trade promotion body, has started promoting production of orthodox teas to meet a shift in global demand for such traditional varieties.

Till mid-1950s, India was primarily a producer of orthodox teas. Tea producers eventually shifted to the now more popular but lower quality cut, tear and curl (CTC) variety to cater to a growing demand in the erstwhile Soviet Union. CTC varieties account for about 90% of India’s annual tea production of more than 950 million kg.

Annual production of orthodox Darjeeling tea, which was accorded GI status in 2004, is around 10 million kg spread over 87 gardens in West Bengal, or about 10% of all teas grown in the state. The orthodox variety fetches between Rs200 and Rs10,000 per kg.

Similarly, production of traditional Assam tea, which acquired GI status two months ago, is 10% of the total 500 million kg of tea grown in the state. The tea, in demand globally for its strength and thickness, is mainly grown in the valley of the Bramhaputra river, said C. Saikia, executive director, northern region, Tea Board.

As for the orthodox tea grown in the Kangra valley in Himachal Pradesh, annual production is less than 1 million kg. Orthodox Nilgiris tea, grown 1,500ft above sea level in Tamil Nadu’s Kothagiri, Coonoor, Ooty and Kundha hills, accounts for about 16% of the 120 million kg of all tea varieties grown in the district.