CBIC orders strict food safety check on tea imported from Nepal

Kolkata: The Central Board of Indirect Taxes & Customs (CBIC) has notified a slew of mandatory food safety requirements for import of tea from Nepal, most of which is reportedly sold as ‘Darjeeling Tea’ in its original or blended avatar.
The Darjeeling Tea Association (DTA


), the Hills planters’ body, pins hopes that this new notification on sanitary and phytosanitary certification and import licence, if implemented in letter and spirit, would stop the rise in illegal influx of cheap and low-quality tea from the Himalayan nation and protect the sanctity of the iconic brand.

The CBIC, which functions under the department of revenue, said that the Union ministry of commerce has been receiving numerous communications raising concerns over the import of tea from Nepal and the domestic sale of such imported brew as “Darjeeling Tea”.
“During the last three years (2017-18 to 2019-20), 60.4 million kgs of teas have been imported into India out of which only 23.4 mkg have been re-exported which underlines the fact that the rest 36.9 mkg of imported teas have been sold in India. Such imported tea, majority of which is coming from Nepal, is sold in India as if produced in India,” the Tea Board wrote to the ministry of commerce and industry on November 3 this year.

In the latest notice, the CBIC said: “It is clarified that as per the Food Safety Standards (FSS) (Import) Regulations, 2017, clearance is required for import of food items into India. Further, the present trade treaty between India and Nepal allows mandatory sanitary and phytosanitary certificates, before products are allowed into each other’s country. As per the provisions of the Tea (Distribution & Export) Control Order, 2005, any importer importing tea from Nepal needs to have a licence, as mandated under this order, and should also have a clearance certificate issued by the Tea Council.”
Sandeep Mukherjee, the principal advisor to DTA, told TOI that after persistent efforts over a period of time by the stakeholders of the Darjeeling Tea industry, appropriate instructions by CBIC has been issued. “Hope it will set right the prevailing system.”
The Tea Board on November 3 this year has requested that necessary action may accordingly be taken to ensure strict and mandatory compliance of the above mentioned FSS (Import) regulations and to also insist on a valid certificate issued by the board under the Tea (Distribution & Export) Control Order, 2005, besides the clearance certificate issued by the Tea Council of India, prior to allowing import of tea from Nepal.
“In case of any difficulty in the implementation of this instruction may be please brought to the notice of the Tea Board,” says the CBIC notice.