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Eye on rural folk for tea sale

- Campaign to boost brew use

Binnaguri (Jalpaiguri), Jan. 22: The Tea Board of India has decided to launch a campaign in rural areas across the country to make every villager drink at least one cup of tea a day so that the domestic consumption of the commodity could be augmented.

The campaign was announced by board chairman M.G.V.K. Bhanu at the annual general meeting of the Dooars branch of Indian Tea Association held here on Saturday.

“We are focusing simultaneously on the domestic and international markets to sell Indian tea in higher quantities. To increase the domestic consumption, we have decided to launch an extensive campaign in rural areas across India. The modalities are yet to be finalised but our mission is to encourage every rural Indian to drink at least one cup of tea everyday. Tea is the best available beverage in the country and if the campaign turns out to be a hit, we can increase the domestic sale of the drink and generate more revenue for the industry,” said Bhanu.

Stakeholders of the industry said the Tea Board’s campaigns had so far been limited to television commercials and billboards put up in prominent cities and tea producing areas.

“This is the first time that a wider campaign has been mooted among the rural people,” said an industry source.

Bhanu exhorted the planters to stick to rules on the level of pesticide content in tea. “Planters should be aware of the issue of MRL (maximum residue limit) in tea which is exported. The FSSAI (Food Safety and Standard Authority of India) has started keeping tabs on tea meant for domestic consumption also. So, it is necessary to maintain the MRL for the tea for domestic consumption. Or else, considering the FSSAI rules, Dooars tea would be one of the first products on which a ban might be imposed,” said the tea board chairman.

“It is essential that while handling pest attacks and other problems (which require use of pesticides), these parameters should be kept in mind,” he added.

Formed in 2006 through legislation, FSSAI is the national watchdog authorised to check every food product manufactured in the country. It has set MRL, that is the highest level of pesticide residues, insecticides, common heavy metals, and micro biological and foreign matters that could be found in food items.

Bhanu also said efforts would be made to boost the export of tea to five countries — Iran, Kazakhistan, Egypt, Turkey and the US — which formed a large chunk of the commodity’s international market.

Tea Board officials said around 900 million kg of tea was produced in India a year on an average and 200-250 million kg was exported.