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Planters worried over board rules

Guwahati, Aug. 27: The tea industry, which wants the beverage to be declared the national drink of India, has expressed its inability to comply with the Tea Board of India’s stipulations on the type and amount of pesticides and fertilisers that can be used to grow and manufacture tea.

The Consultative Committee of Plantation Associations, the apex body of tea producers’ associations in the country, will send its representation to the board’s chairman, Siddharth, tomorrow.

Sources in the tea industry in Assam said while big gardens could implement the board’s directives in their gardens, it was difficult to monitor small tea gardens from whom they often buy tea leaves and process it in their factories.

The small tea growers constitute a major force in the industry and contribute 35 per cent of the total tea production of the country.

An official of the Indian Tea Association (ITA) suggested that the board should introduce a system of monitoring the quality of tea leaves on the ground.

The Tea Board has directed tea brokers and auctioneers to comply with safety standards under the plant protection code, which envisages environment-friendly products, from September 1.

Along with a list of dos and don’ts in tea pest management, the code outlines storage and application of plant protection formulations, safe intervals for its use during the tea cultivation and harvest cycle, water quality, worker safety and equipment maintenance for spraying and end product testing.

The board’s directives assume importance as the fertilisers and pesticides used in growing tea impact not only human consumers but wildlife and the environment too. The enforcement of the code has become more important following Greenpeace India’s report about the presence of pesticides not approved for use on tea crops in the country.

At present, there are 37 Central Insecticide Board-approved plant protection formulations for use in tea. The lists are regularly reviewed to incorporate the latest scientific findings and ensure that the least hazardous materials are used.

There are, however, allegations that the industry continues to use other pesticides, harmful to tea drinkers. Greenpeace had in an August 2014 report alleged that the tea industry continues to use DDT, which the Tea Board of India had banned in 1989.

Reacting to the report, a source said: “Traces of DDT are likely to have been found because of the extensive length of time DDT takes to degrade in the soil.”

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