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EU norms stir bitter brew for tea exports

Calcutta, Nov. 5: Indian tea exports may suffer a major blow if the industry fails to adhere to the European Union (EU) guidelines on the maximum permissible residue limit (MRL) under its new food laws, which will come into effect from January 1 next year.

A recent surveillance report in the EU on teas from all origins has categorised Indian tea in the ‘high residue group’, pointing to the high quantity of residue of many banned substances in the tea. The residue content is much higher than the new EU guideline on MRL.

“The Tea Board has already sent circulars to the producer companies cautioning them about the EU guidelines. If they fail to adhere to the norms, then Indian tea export to the EU countries will dwindle away. Tea producers must take a relook and realise the need of the hour and conform to the new food laws and consumer demand,” said T.C. Chaudhuri, director (research), Tea Board, on the sidelines of a one-day seminar organised by the Association of Food Scientists & Technologists (India).

Two major pesticides are used in tea ' ethion and dicofol. EU has decided to bring down the usage of ethion from the present level of 2 ppm to 0.01 ppm from January 1, 2006. The dicofol level, however, continues to be 20 ppm under the new guidelines.

But the EU is concerned more about the quality of dicofol used by the Indian tea producers ' the chlorine content is high most of the time.

The other pesticides that are used by the tea industry include endosulfan, quinalphos, and chloropyrifos.

For India, the major markets in the EU are the UK (17.76 million kg), Ireland (2.9 million kg), Netherlands (2.9 million kg), Germany (4.8 million kg) and Poland (5.1 million kg).

Chaudhuri said the Tea Research Institute has revised its recommendations in line with the international stipulations suggesting integrated pest management and for analysing of tea samples for the presence of residue in the final produce and for modifying the crop production technology.

“The Tea Board has also been regularly circulating the recommendations to the industry and trade to ensure quality assurance to the consumer and importers of tea,” he added.

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