Check illegal blending to protect Darjeeling tea: CAG to tea board

The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) has revealed that the practice of “mixing” Nepal tea with Darjeeling tea is “still continuing”.
In its audit report on the “Role of Tea Board of India in Development of Tea in India” tabled in the Lok Sabha last week, the CAG has asked the Board, which falls under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, to take necessary steps to stop the “illegal blending” to protect the reputation of the Darjeeling tea.
The CAG noted: “High elevation tea areas in Nepal mostly produce orthodox tea and such tea bear some similarities with Darjeeling tea as both areas share the same topography, soil, environment, weather, climate, temperature and rainfall. The tea bushes of both the areas are of China clonal variety. During 2017-18 to 2020-21, Nepal exported nearly 96 per cent of its total export of tea to India. The main purposes of importing Nepal tea are re-exporting upon value addition and for blending.”
“There were complaints that Nepal tea was mixed with Darjeeling tea having GI (geographical indication) tag for blending and reselling as Indian tea, which was creating problem in maintaining the quality of Darjeeling tea,” it said.
According to the report, circulars were issued where the tea board told all importers to ensure that the origin of imported tea is mentioned in all sale invoices. The tea buyers were also directed not to blend imported tea with tea of Darjeeling/ Kangra/ Assam (orthodox)/ Nilgiri (orthodox).
The tea importers were also required to take licences from the tea board. However, it was found that 90 out of 127 importers were not licensed by the Tea Board.
“The Ministry stated (October 2022) that it requested (July 2022) FSSAI to allow the import of tea from Nepal from three land customs stations only — Jogbani, Panitanki and Raxaul — and FSSAI had also been requested to take up the matter with Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs for mandatory referral of all consignments of tea from Nepal for import clearance of FSSAI along with port restriction at these stations,” the report said.