Clean Tech

A sustainable brew that cheers

Preeti Mehra | Updated on May 30, 2021

Read the leaves: Climate change impacts flavour and yield   -  KK MUSTAFAH

Handholding tea growers towards climate resilience and ethical supply chains

It is not surprising that, in the midst of a raging pandemic, milestones like International Tea Day, last fortnight, went unnoticed. However, its significance has only increased with climate change threatening tea, a vulnerable crop.

Frequent variations in temperature and precipitation, cyclonic storms and floods put tea under risk. Climate change impacts its quality, flavour, chemical composition, production, and yield. Tea is also the livelihood of thousands of plantation workers, and a source of income for small and marginal growers. Large tea estates in the north-eastern and southern states are dependent on it.

It is now agreed that for Indian tea to flourish, growers must shift to organic and sustainable farming for pest-free and resilient crops. They must also go in for eco-friendly manufacturing and plastic-free packaging. This alone will help the industry cater to growing domestic demand and enable Indian brands to hold on to their prime position in the global market.

To secure the health of their produce, tea manufacturers have come together to help growers. The Tatas, along with others in the industry, has been working closely with growers for the last seven years to introduce a host of eco-friendly practices. This is in keeping with consumer demand. Tea drinkers now prefer sources that are hundred per cent sustainable. They look for certification that assures ethical supply chains and fair-trade practices.

“We work with Rainforest Alliance (RFA) and Trustea. Both these organisations have the expertise to audit and certify tea for its sustainability and fair-trade practices. RFA does it for the international markets, while Trustea has been formed for the Indian market,” says Anurag Priyadarshi, Director (Sustainability) of Tata Consumer Products (TCP), the integrated food and beverage company that markets both Tetley and Tata Tea.

Working with around 50,000 smallholder tea growers, 460 tea estates, and about 6 lakh women and male workers, Trustea represents all aspects of tea manufacturing. The long-term aim is also to ensure good working conditions for plantation workers.

“The Trustea certification validates that the tea is being produced in a sustainable manner under the three pillars of environment, safety and livelihoods,” explains Priyadarshi. He elaborates on the biopesticides developed by the Tata Innovation Centre, including an inorganic formulation to control white stem borer in coffee plants, under its Sustainable Plant Protection Formulation (SPPF) project. For tea, SPPF has developed a natural acaricide for red spider mite infestation.

India produces nearly a quarter of the world’s tea. So it’s prudent we keep our crop climate resilient and eco-friendly.

Published on May 30, 2021

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