• Assam BLF Association Factories Refuse to Process Non-Compliant Tea | UPASI Golden Leaf Competition Underway | Elections Present Darjeeling Planters an Opportunity to Seek Intervention

    By Aravinda Anantharaman | Managing Editor

    India Tea News for the week ending 5th April 2024
    India Tea News | Aravinda Anantharaman
    Tea Tasting at The Tea Studio, Nilgiris

    Assam BLF Association Factories Refuse to Process Non-Compliant Tea

    The Assam Bought Leaf Tea Manufacturers Association (ABLTMA) asked its member factories not to accept non-certificated green leaf from smallholders. The association’s 110 bought-leaf manufacturers oppose mandatory auctions and emphasize compliance with the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) norms but insist that sellers present a NABL-Lab MRL certificate attesting to the tea’s safe use. The association claims a higher price realization when selling directly to buyers and has questioned the tea board’s decision.

    FSSAI discovered high non-compliance rates after its laboratories were ordered to test samples from a much larger pool of factories. The government mandate to sell 100% of dust-grade teas at auction followed.

    In direct and auction sales, buyers assume responsibility for determining the tea’s safe consumption. Testing for compliance with FSSAI thresholds for 33 chemicals is more rigorous at auction than in direct transactions.

    Assam’s BLFs are the state’s primary producer. A single BLF may source from upwards of 400 small tea growers via an agent. The problem lies in two parts: there is no single list of chemicals allowed and disallowed. The FSSAI and the Plant Protection Code each have a set of permissible chemicals. Second, small tea growers are not fully aware of the problem of chemical usage and the need for compliance with prescribed chemicals, which necessitates a lot of education at the grassroots.

    One bought leaf owner called for a ban on the disallowed chemicals in the state, which would address the issue to some extent. However, what’s banned for tea may be allowed for other crops. This raises the question of why tea is under the spotlight now. They also say chemical testing is impossible at the factory. If tests were done and the chemicals exceeded FSSAI thresholds, it would be difficult or impossible to trace the contaminated tea to its source. No infrastructure is available for checks at this stage, which is first needed. Following the call to stop production, the Assam state government has intervened, and stakeholders expect a resolution.
    The factory managers say they are committed to processing compliant tea, but that needs to be enforced by the tea board at the grower level. Concerns with compliance are not limited to BLF, as many estates also procure green leaf from small tea growers.

    UPASI and Tea Board announce the 19th edition of the Golden Leaf Competition

    This year’s theme at The Golden Leaf Awards India is TGLIA Teas for Markets. 124 teas have been received from 38 factories across south India, covering the Nilgiris, Wayanad, Anamalais, High Ranges, and Travancore. The first tasting took place on March 30th at Coonoor. Details of the final round have not yet been announced. The competition’s teas will be auctioned on April 22nd.

    Elections Present Darjeeling Planters an Opportunity to Seek Intervention

    With 2024 being an election year, Darjeeling planters are asking the Centre to intervene and rescue the tea industry from its current crisis. The region has a significant bank of voters from the tea growers’ community, and they expect to be heard.

    Weeks before the polls, Darjeeling’s north Bengal hill constituency is grappling with fast-changing political equations. According to reports in the Indian Express, leaders are switching their allegiances, and parties are receiving support from unexpected quarters.

    The political landscape in the constituency has always been tumultuous, with regional forces playing a deciding role in sealing the fate of national party candidates amid the overriding sentiment of separate statehood demand (Gorkhaland).

    The BJP has won the constituency since 2009. Unlike previous winners (Jaswant Singh and SS Ahluwalia), Raju Bista has been given a party ticket to retain the seat he won in 2019 by a landslide margin of over 4 lakh votes, writes Indian Express.

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  • Colombo International Tea Convention | July 24-26

    Early Bird Discount Ends March 31 | CITC Home Page

    Tea News Recap | 29 March 2024

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    CITC Colombo July 24-26
    CITC Colombo July 24-26

    Toward a Sustainable Tea Industry

    By Dan Bolton

    The Colombo Tea Traders’ Association and Sri Lanka Tea Board will host the Colombo International Tea Convention (CITC) at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel from July 24 to 26.

    The convention theme is “Tea: A Lifestyle & A Livelihood.” The event will explore Ceylon tea’s pivotal role, spark conversations, and inspire action toward a sustainable tea industry.

    The program includes 50 speakers and will unfold in eight sessions over three days. Events include an outcry auction, gala dinner, and beach party on closing night. A Ceylon Tea Tasting Experience will introduce attendees to Sri Lanka’s growing regions.

    Sessions include “Fair Price as a Global Challenge,” a topic of utmost relevance in today’s tea industry; an “Ozone Friendly to Zero Carbon” session on climate; and a conversation about the “Value of Tea.” Sri Lanka has emerged from financial, political, and social turmoil, addressed in a session on “The Resilience of Tea & Its Legacy.”

    BIZ INSIGHT — I will moderate the Friday discussion on “Innovation,” which features a panel of ag technology experts presenting innovations such as streamlining financial transactions, online markets, new traceability tools, digital identification, and cloud-based analysis of tea as a service.

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    Colombo International Tea Convention | Episode 161

    Dan Bolton
    Usambara Tanzania 2023

    Dan Bolton

    Dan is a niche content creator who fosters genuine connections globally through informative, educational, and captivating conversations centered around tea.
    Host | Tea Biz Blog | Podcast

    Episodes 1-49

    Ep 50-96

    Ep 97-148

    Ep 149-161

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  • Bought Leaf Factories Oppose 100% Dust in Auctions | Assam Expects a Big Drop in First Flush Production | HUL Focuses on Assam to Support Tea Industry

    By Aravinda Anantharaman | Managing Editor

    India Tea News for the week ending 29 March 2024
    India Tea News | Aravinda Anantharaman
    Bought Leaf Factory, Nilgiris, India
    Bought Leaf Factory, Nilgiris, India

    Bought Leaf Factories Reject 100% Dust Auction

    The Telegraph reported that the Assam Bought Leaf Tea Manufacturer’s Association unanimously opposed the tea board’s order for 100% of dust-grade tea to be sold via the auctions. Their view is that their existing sales mechanisms bring higher price realization when compared with auctions. The members also opposed the demand on the Bought Leaf Factories to test all the green leaf sourced and tea produced at their factories for food safety compliance, stating that the use of chemicals and pesticides was by the grower and not at the factory. They have also said they will cease manufacturing operations starting 1st April 2024 to protest against the non-compliance of green tea leaves.

    Assam to See a Significant Drop in First Flush Production

    North India has been seeing a dry start to the year, which has impacted tea production. The first flush plucking expected to begin in early March has been delayed due to lack of rain. Media reports quote planters as saying the crop will be about 40% lower than average production for the season. Assam production in March 2023 stood at about 34 mn kilos. All eyes are on April to see if the first flush will meet expectations. Darjeeling, Sikkim, and Kangra have also had a late start to the season because of prolonged dry weather.

    HUL Offers Interventions to Support Indian Tea

    Hindustan Unilever, which owns tea brands Brooke Bond, Taj Mahal, and Taaza, partnered with the Tea Research Association of India to promote regenerative agriculture. HUL and TRA plan to undertake a “Life Cycle Analysis” to develop strategies to reduce carbon impact. This will cover 19 tea estates/factories and 19 small tea growers across 15,000 hectares in Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Karnataka. HUL is also expected to invest in Assam to enhance value addition in tea. Economic Times

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  • NETA Opposes 100% Dust Auction | Spotlight on Safe Tea in 2024 | India to Send Trade Delegation to Iran

    By Aravinda Anantharaman | Managing Editor

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    India Mandates All Tea Dust to be Sold at Auction
    India mandates that all tea dust must be sold at auction

    NETA Opposes 100% Dust Auction

    Kamal Jalan, Chairman of The North Eastern Tea Association (NETA), spoke on the challenges facing the Assam tea industry and the way forward. The Association, which held its biennial general meeting in Golaghat, Assam, on March 13, has spoken against the latest government order for 100% of Tea Dust to be sold via the auction system, calling it detrimental to the industry’s survival. They also raised the issue of food safety compliance, calling for greater awareness among small tea growers, increased testing and facilities needed to conduct tests at factories, and a roadmap towards achieving 100% compliance with food safety standards. They also raised the issue of stopping tea production in winter, which is now practiced in north India. The Association has said they do not favor reducing production but instead focus on the generic promotion of tea in the domestic market, aiming for per capita consumption of 1 kilo.

    Safe Tea Comes into Focus

    Indian tea is seeing a renewed and determined march towards food safety. After coming under constant flak, 2024 opened with the Food Safety Standards Association of India, calling for more compliance and partnering with the tea board to see how this can be effected. It’s good to see it in action. Last week, the FSSAI led a training session in the Nilgiris on safe and hygienic tea production practices for small tea growers. In North Bengal, the domestic certification body Trustea partnered with the association of small tea growers for training on pest control, soil health management, and pesticide use.

    India Sends Delegates to Iran

    Iran, once a big buyer of Indian tea, has ceased to import the same volumes as before. The Mint reported that tea shipments to Iran have dropped from 54.5 mn kilos in 2019 to 5.2 mn between January and November 2023. Iran is still considered an important export market; a trade delegation is planned to dialogue with Iranian authorities. Shipping disruptions and payment challenges aside, Iran had an internal crisis in November 2023 when tea importer Debsh Tea Company was embroiled in a $3.4 billion embezzlement scandal. India’s tea exports to the UAE dropped 25% from 2022 to 2023.

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  • Indian Tea Association and Goodricke Group Each Name New Heads | Nilgiris’ INDCOServe Will Convert Kattabettu Factory into Tea Tourism Hub

    By Aravinda Anantharaman | Managing Editor

    India Tea News for the week ending 15 March 2024
    India Tea News | March 15, 2024
    KATTABETTU INDCO TEA FACTORY, KATTABETTU. Established in the year 1976
    Kattabettu INDCO Tea Factory, established in 1976, was recently refurbished.

    ITA & Goodricke Group Announce Appointments

    The Goodricke Group has appointed Arun Narain Singh as the Managing Director and CEO, effective March 6, 2024. This appointment follows the resignation of Atul Asthana last month. Mr Singh has held this position and most recently has been Founder Trustee of Tea Vision, an industry think tank building a common platform for multiple stakeholders in the tea industry and to be the industry’s voice.

    The National Committee of the Indian Tea Association (ITA), meeting on March 12, announced the appointment of Hemant Bangur of Shri Vasupradha Plantations as Chairman, Suneel Singh Sikand, CEO of Rossell Tea, as Vice Chairman, and Atul Rastogi, Director of Luxmi Tea, as Additional Vice Chairman of the Association. Founded in 1881, the Indian Tea Association, headquartered in Kolkata, is India’s oldest organization of tea producers.

    INDCO in the Nilgiris Gets a Tourism Boost

    Tea tourism comes into focus in the south as well. In the Nilgiris, INDCOServe tea cooperative is set to receive Rs 7.4 crore (approx USD 900,000) to convert its Kattabettu tea factory into a tea tourism hub under the Tamil Nadu Innovation Initiatives plan. The funds will be used to create a living tea museum that will house various tea plants and allow visitors to see how tea is made and taste different teas. Both tea and tourism are essential to the economy of the Nilgiris, and this move is seen as a boost to that. INDCOServe is the largest tea cooperative in the country, with 30,000 small farmer members and 16 factories in the Nilgiris.

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