push towards global tea forum

Tea nations mull global forum

Ministers of tea-producing countries will meet in Colombo in May to give shape to an international tea producers’ forum which will help them put up united fight for their interests.
“Tea-producing countries which met at the Food and Agricultural Organisation Intergovernmental Group conclave on tea in Colombo recently decided to have one more meet which will have the representation of their respective ministers,” chairman of the Tea Board of India, M.G.V.K. Bhanu, told The Telegraph.
Bhanu was the head of Indian tea delegation.
Several countries sought support of their governments to give a shape to the forum. The meet was held from January 30-February 1.
The Food and Agricultural Organisation intergovernmental group on tea is a forum for intergovernmental consultation and exchange on trends in production, consumption, trade and prices of tea.
“We want the support of Food and Agriculture Organisation in this forum,” Bhanu said, adding that the secretariat of the forum can be a revolving one.
He said the Tea Board of India has the support of the government on this issue.
The idea of the forum was first mooted by Kenya in 2008 on the sidelines of Food and Agricultural Organisation intergovernmental group meet in China.
A source said the forum would be on the lines of the Organisation for Petroleum Exporting Countries.
“The issue, an important one, needs to be taken forward. There has to be common understanding between the tea-producing countries,” Bhanu said.
Sri Lanka plantation industries minister Mahinda Samarasinghe had stressed the importance of an international forum for tea-producing countries at the meet.
“The issue was discussed and taken forward in Colombo. There is still a process of discussion to be gone through at the governmental level. Some countries have to revert to their governments but there is a concurrence that a body to look after producer’s interests is necessary. Whether this will be within the ambit of the Food and Agricultural Organisation or outside needs to be seen,” Indian Tea Association chairman C.S. Bedi told The Telegraph.
The meeting decided that greater efforts should be directed towards expanding demand. For example, there is scope for increasing per capita consumption in tea-producing countries.
A source said one of the most important issues is that of the maximum residue level in tea on which there is still no agreement between producing and importing countries.
Different countries have different levels of maximum residue levels and with India being a top tea-producing nation heavily focussing on exports, concerns have been expressed time and again on the issue.
“There has to be harmonisation of maximum residue levels to solve the problem which has not happened till now,” a tea industry official said.
Harmonisation of maximum residue level is the ultimate aim which the industry is trying to achieve through the Intergovernmental Group on Tea.


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