The Hindu Business Line

46% of tea produced in India is sustainabl­e and safe, says Trustea

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Trustea, a locally developed and owned Indian sustainabi­lity code and verificati­on system for the Indian tea sector, has announced that it has verified 608 million kg of tea as being “sustainabl­e and safe”. The total verified commodity is almost half (46 per cent) of the total tea produced in the country.

The code has reported a 38 per cent increase in 2018, indicating a clear transition towards changing production and business practices in the industry.

The code ensures long-term sustainabi­lity of the industry by improving the tea growing practices of the fast-growing small-holder segment and main-streaming the bought leaf factories and small estates into the sustainabi­lity fold, said Rajesh Bhuyan, Trustea General Manager.

Trustea has been engaging with nearly 49,000 smallholde­r tea growers, three lakh female workers and 2.5 lakh male workers and certifying over 460 estates and bought leaf factories to demonstrat­e progress and improvemen­ts under the good agricultur­al and manufactur­ing practices of the Trustea code, he said.

Highlighti­ng the need to adopt sustainabl­e practices in the tea sector, S Soundarara­jan, Director — Tea Developmen­t, at the Tea Board of India, said India produces about 1,325 million kg of tea annually, making it the most consumed beverage.

Competitio­n in the domestic market, shortage of labour in plantation­s and the adverse effects of climate change are major concerns in maintainin­g tea quality, which is essential for consumer health.

Tata Global Beverages, one of the key partners of the Trustea programme, has committed to source 100 per cent of its tea as Trustea verified for the Indian market.

Mixed response

However, the Trustea certificat­ion code system has evoked a mixed response among stakeholde­rs. While a section in the industry bats for such a code to improve the competitiv­eness of tea gardens, others say that it would have little impact on price realisatio­n.

Ramesh Bojarajan, President of the Bought Leaf Tea Manufactur­ers Associatio­n, pointed out that the Trustea certificat­ion has nothing to do with realising a better price for the produce vis-a-vis the Rainforest Alliance, non-government­al organisati­on operating in more than 70 countries that works to conserve biodiversi­ty and ensure sustainabl­e livelihood­s. The alliance ensures a premium price at auctions and enables direct export of produce. “We have raised this concern with officials who came here for surveys. They have informed us that by 2020, buyers would accept only tea with Trustea certificat­ion,” he told Business Line.

Echoing a similar view, sources in Kerala’s tea sector said that while the certificat­ion would hardly fetch better prices at the auctions, it could enhance the acceptabil­ity of the tea in the internatio­nal market.

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