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Kolkata: Darjeeling tea growers have long suffered from regular political agitations and strikes. Then came the Covid-induced shutdowns and post-pandemic losses. And now they are facing a new threat — tea from Nepal that is allegedly being pushed as offerings from the hills, branded as Himalayan Darjeeling Tea.
From allegedly copying premium estate organic tea packaging to passing off inorganic offerings as Darjeeling ones, tea growers here are facing a variety of issues.
The Indian Tea Association (ITA) has flagged these with the Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry and the West Bengal government as tea import from Nepal rose by over 60 per cent last year, and this year it has crossed over 50 per cent until June.
The rising tea imports from Nepal has rung an alarm bell from the grower of world’s finest and most premium Darjeeling Tea, which comes with a GI tag.
To add to the troubles of the tea connoisseurs, the duplicate Darjeeling tea from Nepal appears to be inorganic in nature and high on carcinogen, because the growers there use pesticides, alleged experts.
The ‘menace’ of ‘duplicate or fake’ Darjeeling or Himalayan long leaf — as it is being marketed to the retailers and to the mixers for blending — is ruining the already struggling Darjeeling tea industry, claimed the producers and exporters of Darjeeling.
Speaking to ThePrint, ITA secretary Sujit Patra said these issues have been raised with authorities of the state and central governments concerned.
“Huge quantities of indigenous tea coming from Nepal and being blended with regular CTC (crush, tear, curl). They are being passed off to the customers as Himalayan Tea or long leaf tea. Himalayan Tea is specifically Darjeeling tea,” said Patra.
“We have written to the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and requested them to ensure regular quality checks by the FSSAI. It needs to check for 34 chemicals in tea, but there is a breach. We need to ensure proper testing of such tea,” he added.
Patra highlighted that Nepal doesn’t need to bear any export duty due to its free trade agreement with India, and the import figures are “alarming”.
“This is ruining our Darjeeling tea industry. We are getting complaints from growers that some Chinese or Korean origin tea is coming via Nepal using the free trade route,” he added.