Darjeeling, Oct. 14: The European Union has asked for public opinions on Darjeeling Tea, a step towards granting patent to the brew growing in the Darjeeling hills after its producers requested GI protection of the commodity.
Six months have been given to file objections before a decision can be taken to grant Geographical Indicator status to Darjeeling Tea.
This is the first time a non-European has approached the EU for Geographical Indicator protection, the spokesperson for the Agriculture and Rural Department of the European Commission, Michael Mann, told the PTI in Brussels today.
If the EU agrees to grant GI status, it would mean that Darjeeling Tea would be protected in all the EU countries. This would be of boon for the industry, said Sandip Mukherjee, secretary, Darjeeling Tea Association, which had approached the EU.
However, DTA members believe that many EU tea importers could try and oppose the move. There are certain unscrupulous importers who will not want this status. GI status will hamper their business interests as only the tea that originates 100 per cent from the Darjeeling GI area can be sold as Darjeeling Tea, said Mukherjee.
According to Sanjay Bansal, the DTA chairman, there are regulations in the EU countries, which allow blended tea to be sold as a produce of a particular area. If 51 per cent of a packet contained Assam tea and the rest were from Indonesia, it could still be sold as Assam tea, said Bansal. Planters said even though Darjeeling produces about only 10 million kg of brew annually, almost 40 million kg is sold as Darjeeling Tea.
The process to give protection to Darjeeling Tea had started with the World Trade Organisation approving Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights in 1995. Since, it was mandatory to get home protection, the Indian government passed a Geographic Indicator and Protection Act in 1999 after which Darjeeling Tea was given the GI status in the country in 2003, said Bansal. Only 86 gardens in the Darjeeling hills can sell their produce as Darjeeling Tea.
The home protection prompted the DTA to approach the European Commission in Brussels in November 2007 for recognition across EU.