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The Tea Board, in its notification, has kept the sanctity of GI intact and allowed blending only for teas not claiming the GI mark
The Tea Board India, on Tuesday, superseded an earlier notification that prohibited blending any imported tea with Indian varieties tagged with geographical indications (GI) and allowed it for end products not claiming to be GI teas.
In November, the Tea Board under powers of the Tea (Marketing Control) Order, 2003, directed registered buyers not to blend any imported tea with GI teas — Darjeeling, Kangra, Assam (orthodox) and Nilgiri (orthodox).
hat impacted domestic procurement of Darjeeling tea by its largest buyer, Tata Consumer Products Ltd (TCPL), and several representations from the industry followed.
According to Tea Board sources, the Union commerce ministry left it to the board to take a reasoned decision on the question of modification after consultation with stakeholders.
A stakeholder meeting followed on Friday with producers and major customers, including TCPL and Hindustan Unilever, under the aegis of the Board. The overwhelming view of the two parts of the industry – the producers and the customers — was that there needs to be a modification, according to Tea Board sources.
The Tea Board, in its notification, has kept the sanctity of GI intact and allowed blending only for teas not claiming the GI mark.
The clampdown on imports was done at the behest of the industry as it depressed auction prices. Cheap imports from Nepal, with properties similar to Darjeeling, had been eating into the share of the famed tea. But the Tea Board notification in November impacted domestic procurement of Darjeeling tea by its largest buyer, Tata Consumer Products (TCPL).
Tata Tea Gold, it may be mentioned, was mixing Nepal tea procured in India, with Darjeeling for one of its blends, prior to the notification. But following the restriction, the company’s buying this year has been minimal.
TCPL was not immediately available for a comment on the notification.
In August, in response to queries from this newspaper on the issue of the November notification and the impact on Darjeeling tea, TCPL had said that Tata Consumer Products had made numerous representations to the Tea Board and Commerce Ministry on the said notification, which included directives on not allowing any Indian GI tea to be blended with other origins even if not claiming the GI mark, which was not in the interest of any stakeholder.
It had said TCPL was an important participant in the Darjeeling market and would want to continue its role as the leading buyer.
The Darjeeling tea industry has been facing myriad challenges — from high cost, low yield and threat from Nepal teas. The loss of a major domestic buyer this year added to the troubles as prices dipped.
The average price for Darjeeling from Sale 14 to Sale 41 (April to October) was at 379.14 a kg in 2022 compared to Rs 453.2 in 2021 and Rs 408.23 in 2020. And with higher costs most estates in Darjeeling were pushed into losses.
Anshuman Kanoria, chairman, Indian Tea Exporters’ Association, welcomed the order and said, “I believe that domestic packet tea companies like Tata Consumer have a big role to play in the survival of Darjeeling tea and we hope that the company will resume its support to the industry.”
He added that the larger issue of threat from Nepal teas remains and needs to be addressed with policy measures and financial assistance to ensure gardens remain functioning tea estates, instead of land banks.