The trustea sustainability code for Indian tea, announced recently, has received an overwhelming response from traders and planters. The sector has welcomed the move, saying this would not only boost export but also bring about a premium on prices.
However, some have voiced concern about the high compliance cost for the code, saying this could raise tea prices in the country. “There is a cost aspect attached to compliance. But things are yet to be worked out, as this is just a draft code for six months. This code was required, as the poor quality of Indian tea was posing a major threat for our brand,” said Chetan Patel, secretary, Federation of All India Tea Traders Association.
About 80 per cent of the tea sector, including planters, packers and traders, had agreed to the new code, sources said. To achieve complete compliance, companies seeking the trustea code would have to meet applicable control points within four years.
According to the draft India Tea Code, it would not only improve competition between farms but also facilitate these in achieving compliance with national regulations and international sustainability standards.
“We are looking at something beyond the existing regulations, anticipating getting something extra from the new regulation. The issue of cost of compliance has to be addressed. But that doesn’t mean a rise in tea prices,” said AzamMonen, director, McLeod Russel India. “Tea prices are driven by demand-supply factors. After compliance with the trusteacode, we should get a premium over the existing price.” The sector has also recognised the need to spread awareness among consumers about the trustea mark. “There should be some promotion by packers and tea traders to educate consumers about code-compliant products, about how it is superior in quality,” said Monem.
The draft code, launched on July 11, considers factors such as the management system of plantations and factories, product traceability, soil conservation, water management, fertilisers, crop protection and labour issues. “Fertilisers are a major challenge for the tea industry. There are stringent norms in the European market, where Indian tea is rejected due to the high use of fertilisers. We have to address this,” said Patel, also a tea trader here.