The last few months have been very eventful for the Indian Tea Industry and it still finds itself in the midst of a whirlpool of controversies. There can never be smoke without fire and the media has a knack for spotting the smoke and following the trail back to the point of origin. From all this media coverage I see both challenges and opportunities. When issues arise, different parties are affected to varied degrees, but at least the spotlight forces a discussion, a debate, a rallying ground. History is is full of instances where negatives had positive outcomes. Even a situation like the Cold War between the USSR and US led to a rapid development of space science. I am very hopeful that the current focus on the Indian Tea Industry will ultimately lead to positive outcomes and we may see an industry in transition, evolving into something better a few years down the line.
One positive outcome can already be seen in a very significant development during the last week. The Tea Board of India unveiled the “Plant Protection Code (Ver. 1.0)” during the trustea Programme Committee meeting on 13th March. This is the first time that the Tea Board has come up with a landmark policy document like this and credit should go to the “trustea” team and the trustea Programme Committee, of which ETP is a member, for its hard work in supporting the Tea Board to come up with such a remarkable document in the shortest possible time.
What is very interesting about this code is the way that input from a cross section of stakeholders contributed to its’ development, i.e. the Government Bodies, research agencies, producer association, buyers was used to sharpen each element and make sure it was in line with international norms.
The code will guide the industry towards the minimisation of pesticide use and make cultivation, production, and consumption of tea safer for humans and the environment. It sets out to do this through responsible chemical management, good agricultural practices, and reducing dependence on chemicals through Integrated Pest Management strategies. The list of approved chemicals excludes WHO Class Ia and Ib classified chemicals and is fully aligned with the Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions. It does not stop at that and an expert technical group has been established to review and update the code with the ambition to gradually reduce/eliminate the WHO class II and III chemicals. For the interest of readers the complete report can be accessed through the trustea website or the Indian Tea Board website.
One of the particularly significant aspects of the code is that it applies across the Indian industry, not just to producers involved in schemes such as trustea. As the Tea Board Chairman clearly states in his forward – “This document ‘Plant Protection Code’ is being issued to the tea industry as a comprehensive guideline for safe usage of plant protection formulations (PPF’s) in the tea plantations in India.”
I am sure this will mark a major turning point for the Indian Tea industry. At ETP we believe that there are other such turning points coming on approaches to social and welfare issues. We are deeply engaged in working with partners in India on transformational approaches in these areas too.