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Strict quality check to ensure export tag for Indian tea

KOLKATA: Foreign buyers can now rest assured about the quality of Indian tea. Tea Board of India has put in place a system of random testing of teas meant for exports to ensure that only the varieties that comply with the standards set by Food Safety &Standard Authority of India enter global markets. 

The measure comes at a time when Indian tea is facing competition in the world market from Kenyan tea. 

Talking to ET, MGVK Bhanu, chairman, Tea Board of India, said: "Tea Board has taken firm steps to protect and enhance the image of Indian tea globally, and to ensure that the tea worthy of the tagline 'Indian tea' is exported. This comes on the backdrop of various quality issues that have cropped up in recent years." 

In 2012-13, India exported 220.46 million kg of tea at a total consideration of Rs 3,962.92 crore. The country imported 17.88 million kg of tea in FY13. 

Tea Board of India has established two councils -- one for north India and the other for the south that will monitor the online tracking system of all exports and imports and ensure that quality norms are enforced. The mechanism has been developed by by NSE.IT, which has also developed the e-auction platform for tea. 

Industry officials said foreign buyers sometimes raise concerns about quality. Generally, Tea Board receives complaints from countries like 
Libya and Iran. Tea Board chairman said that Indian exporters need to be more focussed on quality because foreign buyers are increasingly pushing hard on this issue. 

According to the scheme, a permanent exporter or importer will have to log on to a web address designed by NSE.IT two days ahead of the shipment date. In the case of a temporary exporter or importer, the person will have to log in 10 days ahead of the shipment. The system will randomly select the application and an inspection agency will inspect the samples. The inspection agency, which in this case is the 
Tea Research Association, will take a call on the quality. 

"If the tea does not conform to the food safety standards, the exporter or importer will be tagged as 'exporters/importers under warning'. And that sort of a tag is not desirable," said an official of 
Calcutta Tea Traders Association. 

Anshuman Kanoria, chairman, Indian Merchant 
Tea Exporters, said the new mechanism will help bolster the image of Indian tea in the world market. "However, this year exporters will face difficulty as the Kenyan production is almost up by 50 million kg and the African country is offering tea to the world market at a cheaper price," he said.