Tea board initiatives yield quality fruit, says Bhanu
Initiatives taken by the Tea Board of India to improve the quality of Indian tea have borne fruit, as not a single consignment of tea has been returned citing poor quality in the past year.
The outgoing chairman of the Tea Board of India M.G.V.K. Bhanu told The Telegraph that many initiatives were taken to improve the quality of tea during his tenure in the past two years.
Bhanu will hand over charge as chairman on December 26 in Calcutta and return to work for the Assam government.
Two tea councils have been set up, one for South India and one for the north, in order to monitor the quality of tea meant for export and for imported teas meant for re-export.
“This initiative has helped improve the quality image of Indian tea abroad and it is worthwhile to note that during the last one year, not a single consignment of tea has been returned due to poor quality” Bhanu said.
Earlier, buyers had raised concerns regarding the quality of Indian tea and consignments had been rejected because of this.
The setting up of a separate directorate to look after the needs of small tea growers, which now account for more than 35 per cent of the country’s production, was also an important initiative.
A separate cadre of engineering graduates has been deployed as factory advisory officers to render technical guidance to tea factories and help them adopt good manufacturing practices.
A sustainable development programme — Trustea, which aims to assure the consumer that what he is drinking is a safe cup of tea — was also launched this year.
On his two-year tenure, Bhanu said he had delivered whatever he had committed at the time of joining the Tea Board. “It is particularly satisfying to me that I have been able to set in motion several activities aimed at improving the overall quality image of Indian tea both in the country and in the international market,” he said.
On the future of the tea industry, which has a steady demand for natural healthy beverage the world over, he said it would grow from strength to strength. Bhanu said production this year in India is expected to touch an all-time high of 1,180 million kg — an increase of 200 million kg since last year.
“This 200 million kg increase was not entirely owing to favourable climatic conditions. It was also due to better collection and collation of production data by activating field officers of the board. Also, this significant rise in production has not adversely impacted tea prices in the domestic market, which would indicate that domestic consumption is on the rise. But the actual domestic demand needs to be assessed properly to keep the demand and supply in fine balance,” he said.
In five to seven years, small tea growers will contribute around 50 per cent of India’s total tea production but this does not mean that this sector is going to be a competitor against the organised sector, Bhanu said.
“On the other hand, both the sectors stand to benefit through a symbiotic relationship,” he added.
On the problem of maximum residue level (MRL) where importing countries have their own standards, he hoped that some unanimity regarding uniform standards would be reached among the consuming countries in the near future. Bhanu said the auction system is being fine-tuned to make it user-friendly and attract more buyers to participate in the system.