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Tocklai presence in US tea meet
- Indian contingent to report impact of climate change on brew

Jorhat, Sept. 5: Two international meets on tea to be held in Washington DC later this month will focus on health benefits of the brew and how to make it even more healthier by determining the maximum pesticide residue limits, leaching of pesticides into the brew, organic tea and maintenance of quality standards.

N. Muraleedharan, director in-charge of Tocklai Experimental Station here under the Tea Research Association, said he would be part of the group representing the tea industry of India at the two meets — the inter-session meeting of the Inter Government Groups on Tea to be held under the aegis of Food and Agriculture Organisation on September 17 and 18 and the 5th International Scientific Symposium on Tea and Human Health on September 19.

Muraleedharan said the international symposium on September 19, which will be attended by renowned tea and health researchers from all over the world, would address future course of research on polyphenols and other anti-oxidants and how they are absorbed and metabolised in the body.

“In recent times, it has been established that tea has anti-oxidants and polyphenols which are beneficial to health. The next course for researchers is to find out how the consumption of tea impacts cardio-vascular health. Also, research will have to be done to know the mechanism for prevention of cancer. Other health studies will include whether tea intake helps to reduce weight or increases mineral density of bones,” he said.

In the initial meet, working groups on tea would present report cards on various aspects of tea and also ensure that there is no duplication of research.

“From India we will report on what work has been done regarding climate change and its effects on tea and on maximum residue limit in tea. The Tea Board of India member will present a note on organic tea based on work done at Tocklai,” Muraleedharan said

The meet will formulate an action plan on how climate change and other environmental factors are impacting the growth and development of tea and whether research on how plant varieties can be developed to mitigate these things.

“The maximum residue limit of pesticides in tea is a big issue and the meet will prepare a list on pesticides used in different countries and on experiments on generating data on new pesticides which are registered for sale in India. Our country, being the largest producer of black tea, will have to generate this data as it is difficult to grow tea in the climatic conditions prevalent here without using pesticides,” he said.

“Another issue to be discussed is that though the tea may contain a certain amount of pesticides, the whole amount may not leach into the brew and was thus safe for consumption. Countries which forbade the entry of such tea should measure the maximum residue limit after considering the leaching of residue,” Muraleedharan said.

Regarding the benefits of organic tea, he said it has low energy inputs, as there were no added chemical fertilisers and pesticides. However, this value addition of organic tea had to be certified and the certification process made simpler, he added.

“Likewise, India maintains the quality standard of ISO 3720 but this is not the case with all countries. We have to impress upon these countries to follow the ISO parameter and automatically the tea price will improve along with overall improvement in quality,” Muraleedharan said.

The issue of small tea holders in Kenya, India and other countries would also be discussed, stressing how and what their roles are in production and how they could be benefited.