Agri Business

‘Plans to set up integrated tea park in Kochi’

| Updated on: Oct 01, 2012
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Conducting feasibility study, says Tea Board Executive Director, R. Ambalavanan

It is called a common man’s drink and used in majority of the households across the country. Although it is being promoted as a health beverage and its domestic consumption is on the rise, quality issues continue to haunt tea, South Indian in particular. What will happen to the sector if retail FDI comes into full force? Will it wilt or retain its cheer?

Tea Board Executive Director R. Ambalavanan spoke to Business Line about this and other issues concerning the tea plantation sector. Excerpts:

On quality

I strongly believe that improving quality will take the industry to new highs and this calendar year so far, we have destroyed 25 tonnes of sub-standard tea in South India. We have also made it mandatory by issuing an order in mid-September for teas that are sold below Rs 80/kg in any of the south Indian auction centres to be tested by the Board and tea brokers before despatch.

It is a fact that quality teas would get support and fetch good price.

The Board, along with the stakeholders of the industry, is engaged in a concerted effort to enhance the quality. Availability of sufficient premium tea can be ensured in the national and international market which could lead to better price realisation for the producers.

On promotion activities

Domestic consumption is growing annually at 3-5 per cent and per capita consumption is now at 730 g a year.

To boost it further and to gain stronger foothold in export markets, we are planning to set up an integrated tea park on seven acres in Kochi on the lines of one in Siliguri.

We are conducting feasibility study and we chose Kochi because of its proximity to the port. There would be units that would look after processing, blending, storing, warehousing and the like.

We are also planning one in Coimbatore soon.These parks would be set up on a cost sharing basis with the State Governments concerned and the Tea Board contributing 40 per cent of the total project cost.

On iron filings in tea

The trade is facing unwanted harassment. According to the Food Safety and Standards Act of India regulations, the maximum permissible limit prescribed for iron filings in tea is zero which is not at all possible.

It should not be seen as adulteration but an inevitable manufacturing problem.

The Centre had earlier issued a circular prescribing the maximum limit of 250 parts/million (ppm) iron particles in tea, which was withdrawn subsequently.

Our Chairman (of the Tea Board) will soon meet the Director-General of Food Safety and Standards Authority soon to discuss the issue.

On retail activities

In South India, we have two retail outlets in Chennai and one in Tirupati. We are looking at a promotion centre at Coimbatore on a public private partnership basis but the model is yet to be approved.

The FDI in retail will bring in a quality-oriented market and farmers would be the beneficiaries if the teas are sourced directly from them.

I cannot comment on the policy framework of the government. But one point is very clear, that without testing this policy as to how it is going to function, we cannot conclude, and secondly, it will definitely not affect the small people.

> Gayathri.gururajan@thehindu.co.in

Published on October 01, 2012

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