India produces about 26 million g of organic tea and 80 per cent of this is exported to Germany, the UK and the US.
The Tea Board has set up three model farms in India on 100 acres each to develop a standard package for cultivation of organic tea, according to Ms Roshni Sen, Deputy Chairperson of the Board.
“The farms are in Munnar (Kerala), Darjeeling (West Bengal) and Assam and they will develop a standard package through research and development,” she told Business Line at the Indian Tea Board pavilion at BioFach 2012.
The package is being developed with financial aid from the Food and Agriculture Organisation's Centre For Commodities Fund.
While the United Planters Association of Southern India-Tea Research Association is involved in the Munnar farm, the Darjeeling Tea Development Research Corporation is doing the spadework at Darjeeling. The Tea Research Association of India, Tocklai, is in charge of research in Assam gardens.
“We are following a two-pronged strategy in encouraging organic production of tea. One is to prepare a standard package for cultivation and the other is to rope in small farmers by imparting regular training,” she said.
This is seen as a significant move by India to strengthen its hold in the organic tea market with a production of 26 million kg. About 80 per cent of this is exported to Germany, the UK and the US.
Currently, organic tea is being cultivated on 22,000 hectares and India is one of the few countries that has a national programme for organic production apart from China.
There are eight certifying agencies in the organic tea sector and 50 producers have been certified by these bodies. “Other producers are in the process of getting certification,” Ms Sen said.
The development of organic tea and a standard package for its cultivation is also seen important in the background of reports of pesticide residues being found in Indian tea consignments.
The Tea Board has appointed an agency to undertake a market study on domestic demand in organic products.
“We have already done a study on demand for such products in the US,” she said.
On setting up an export inspection council in view of increasing complaints on quality grounds against Indian tea, Ms Sen said a monitoring system will be set up during the 12th Plan period.
To a question on a directorate for small tea growers, she said it will begin functioning from this year. “We have already started the recruitment process for the directorate,” she said.
(The trip for BioFach 2012 has been sponsored by Nuremberg Messe GmbH in collaboration with the APEDA).