Our Bureau

Kolkata, Nov. 6

THE country's falling tea exports are likely to be hit further as the European Union is scheduled to implement a new set of MRL (minimum residual limit) norms from January 1, 2006.

According to Mr T.C. Chaudhuri, Director (Research), Tea Board, the worst affected market is likely to be Germany, which imports approximately six to seven million kg a year. EU imports around 30 million kg of tea every year from India.

"We have already sent several notices to the tea companies and their associations warning them about the impending problem. The Tea Board is overseeing this issue on a daily basis," Mr Chaudhuri said.

In fact, a recent surveillance report on tea of all origin prepared by the EU has categorised Indian teas in the `high residue group'.

It has been pointed out that Indian teas contain several banned substances. It has also been stated that residual contents are higher than the prescribed EU levels.

Mr Chaudhuri, however, did not agree with this. According to him, the current Indian tea consignments to Europe meet the prescribed MRL standards.

For example, he said, the EU currently allows 3 ppm of ethion but it will be reduced to 0.1 ppm from next year.

Even for other materials the residual limits are being made more stringent.

He advised the planters to keep a regular check on the purity of the chemicals they are using in their gardens.

Second, he asked the tea planters to strictly follow the recommendations of the Tea Research Association.

"If the situation does not improve drastically then more problems await the planters. Then no amount of promotional work will help the industry under the new food law regime," he said.

Already, Indian tea exports are down by about 20 million kg for the period January to June 2005 compared with the corresponding period of the previous year.

Experts apprehend that there is likely to be a negative growth this year.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated November 7, 2005)
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