Tea Board makes country of origin details mandatory to curb illegal imports

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KOLKATA: The Tea Board is seeking to curb the movement of illegally imported tea within the country, seeking to cancel the relevant buyer licences if consignments don’t mention the country of origin and the full address of the importer.

It has come to the notice of the Tea Board that 60.35 million kgs of tea have been imported in the past three years. Of this, 23.43 million kg has been re-exported, while 36.92 million kgs have been sold in India, which cannot be traced. The move will help the Darjeeling tea industry the most as it has been suffering from the onslaught of Nepal teas for many years.

“The violation of Tea Board’s order will lead to the cancellation of buyer licences, which will debar the firm from accessing the auctions,” said Kaushik Basu, secretary of Darjeeling Tea Association. “Secondly, it will also lead to the cancellation of tea distribution licences, which will mean the firm cannot sell teas as well.”

The Tea Board has found out that teas imported are sold without complying with the guidelines laid out in the Food Safety Standard (Packaging & Labeling) Regulations 2011.

Sanjay Bansal, chairman of Ambootia Group, a leading Darjeeling tea manufacturer, said: “The move will protect the interest of the consumers who have been paying more for cheap quality teas. And definitely, this will help the Darjeeling tea trade, which has been asking the Tea Board for the last 10 years to put a check on the quality of imported teas that are being sold in the domestic market.”

Bansal added that the non-compliant spurious teas are a health hazard and also damage the reputation and cause financial loss to the heritage Darjeeling tea, besides threatening the livelihood of Darjeeling tea growers.

Nepalese teas started entering India in good volumes after the plantation operations in the hills came to a grinding halt for four months between June and September three years ago due to the strike call given by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha. That opened doors for Nepalese teas in the Indian market and now the industry alleges that Nepalese teas are even finding ways to global markets, which used to buy only Darjeeling teas.

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Tagged Country of Origin, Darjeeling, imports, Nepal, tea board

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