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COONOOR: After some tea shipments from India were allegedly rejected at a few importing destinations on the ground that they carried more pesticide residues than the prescribed Maximum Residue Level (MRL), the Coonoor-headquartered planters body, United Planters’ Association of Southern India (UPASI), has urged the Tea Board to act forthwith.
According to sources, nearly 30,000 kg of tea, valued at approximately Rs 70 lakh, from North India was rejected.
This, however, could affect tea exports from the country as it could signal that Indian tea has more pesticide residues & hence unhealthy. UPASI president P P Cherian said the Tea Board must “immediately revive the Tea Council, both in North and South India, whose remit was to monitor tea exports and imports”.
Though Cherian has raised doubts about rejection of consignments from ‘unreported importing destinations’, exporters said two tea containers were rejected by Iran and Taiwan recently citing MRL.
“Officials periodically inspect the beverage at factories and warehouses to ensure that no substandard tea enters the market. The board has told tea manufacturers and exporters to strictly comply with FSSAI standards”, a Tea Board officer said.
These ‘phytosanitary issues’ arise because of different standards in different importing nations. “Several countries follow standards that are stricter than FSSAI rules”, an exporter said.
Cherian said there is no conclusive evidence to suggest that tea consignments were returned. UPASI wishes to reassure that its members are regularly advised to follow protocols while applying pesticides. The long harvesting intervals followed in South India also facilitate safe harvest intervals specified for every pesticide”.
He said tea planters in South India applied only a few chemicals for which the MRL has been declared by several countries and international organisations like EPA, FAO, European Economic Community and Codex Alimentarius Commission. They also follow the prescriptions of FSSAI.
“The pesticide usage in South India is need-based. UPASI members use pesticides that are cleared by the UPASI Tea Research Foundation which is also recommending non-chemical pest management strategies such as use of botanicals, pheromones and microbials. Inorganic compounds like sulphur and copper oxychloride are also integrated in the pest control schedule to reduce the effect of pesticide residues in tea”, the UPASI president said.