As the Central government has mandated 100 per cent auction of dust tea from North Indian tea gardens, the tea industry has welcomed this “much-needed step” as it is expected to ensure greater regulatory compliance which would boost exports of the brew.

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“The gazette notification on 100 per cent dust auction be compulsorily required through public auctions, barring any directly exported or directly marketed tea by North Indian producers, is a very welcome move,” said Indian Tea Exporters Association (ITEA) chairman Anshuman Kanoria.

Notably, in the gazette notification, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry said one hundred per cent of dust grades tea manufactured in a calendar year in its manufacturing units located in geographical areas of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura, Uttarakhand, and West Bengal, is to be sold through public tea auctions. However, this mandate will not apply to mini tea factories.

The ministry has issued the notification after amending the Tea (Marketing) Control Order, 2003. The new order is called the Tea (Marketing) Control (Amendment) Order, 2024, and will come into force with effect from April 1, 2024.

“This (the new order) will go a long way in comprehensive and reliable testing of all teas produced in North India, and it will give the full landscape of compliance of North Indian teas to the MRL (Maximum Residue Level) tests. We have already requested FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India) to ensure that their testing protocol is for the entire range of band chemicals and not just a handful of chemicals that is presently being done,” Kanoria said.

“Once these enforced variable sampling teas are required to be sold 100 per cent in the auctions, we will be able to reliably see the quality that has been produced and the MRL compliance of North Indian teas. The Indian Tea Exporters Association strongly welcomes it and commends the government for this much needed step,” the ITEA chairman said.

The reliability and transparency of MRL testing, resulting from 100 per cent dust auctions, will ensure better compliance in the North Indian tea industry and help boost tea exports, he added.

Commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal met stakeholders of Assam and Darjeeling tea industry last month in Kolkata to discuss the challenges being faced by the industry players. In the meeting, all the associations presented had requested Goyal to take measures to ensure 100 per cent auction of dust tea from North India tea gardens.

Also read: Indian Tea Board cracks the whip on Coonoor tea trade over compliance issues

Meanwhile, Indian Tea Association, in a media statement issued on Tuesday, said all Indian tea estates and factories are registered with the Food Safety & Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and remain committed to comply with the prevalent standards of FSSAI. “The present testing protocol allows testing of 33 chemicals for tea. Testing is being done on a regular basis by tea producers as well as buyers. The testing protocol not only includes FSSAI prescribed Plant Protection Formulations (PPFs) but also covers testing of banned chemicals,” it said, adding the Indian tea industry is subject to social audit by Certification Agencies to ensure compliance with social, environmental and ethical standards.

“These are well documented and a transparent system is in place to check the teas being produced by tea estates. The ITA supports comprehensive testing to check compliance of teas,” ITA said, adding there is, however, a need to create further testing infrastructure including a testing mechanism for testing of green leaf. And, this has been flagged by the association with the appropriate authorities.