The Hindu Business Line
46% of tea produced in India is sustainable and safe, says Trustea
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.
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.