EU project on tea code of conduct

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By Staff Reporter in Guwahati
  • Published 5.07.05

Guwahati, July 5: Stakeholders in the Assam tea industry will hold discussions on the need to develop a code of conduct for the Indian tea industry with project officials of the European Union.

A series of meetings will be held in Dibrugarh this month as part of a project funded by the European Union. The project is named Building a Business Case for Corporate Social Responsibility in the Indian Tea Industry. The Centre of Education and Communication (CEC), New Delhi, FAKT Consult, Germany, and Traidcraft, UK, jointly manage the project.

Its overall objective is to promote the sustainability of the tea trade through improved social standards, fair trade practices and new market opportunities.

Assam alone accounts for 53 per cent of the country?s tea production. Companies here send teas for export through the inland container depot in Amingaon.

?European consumers increasingly want to be assured that the tea they are buying is grown and manufactured under conditions that are socially just and environmentally responsible. By subscribing to the code of conduct, planters and factory owners guarantee the observation of core labour standards on their premises,? an official explained.

At a regional consultation meeting held in Dibrugarh earlier, the project officials had said DDT needs to be banned and knowhow about limited use of pesticides has to be improved.

Germany had rejected Assam tea a few years ago as it contained pesticides.

The regional consultation meeting was attended by nearly 42 participants, including representatives of planters, government, small growers, bought leaf factories, the Guwahati Tea Auction Centre and the Tea Research Association of India.

In the regional consultation meeting in Dibrugarh earlier this year, trade unions had told them that employers should involve them before and during the implementation of codes of conduct.

?As a first step towards observing labour standards, small growers have to be issued land titles and registered under the Tea Act and the Plantation Labour Act,? an official said.

They had also sought improvements in medical care and education and called for schools to be taken over by the government, with the employers taking care of the buildings.

The planters opined that they wanted to generate awareness among the workers regarding health, education and safety at work through regular interactive meetings between workers and management.

The group had suggested improving consumer dialogue to sensitise tea drinkers in India and abroad about the production. The small tea growers? group had said introduction of social and environmental standards in the small growers? sector needs a co-ordinated approach and assistance from financial institutions.

For better marketing, small tea producers must float a brand of their own. The auctioneers proposed to set up infrastructure to check pesticide levels and tea quality close to the production site to aid marketing through auctions.

The project would conceptualise and initiate a regional pilot campaign to sensitise Indian consumers on the social, ecological and cultural significance of tea, on the work and living conditions of people involved in the production and on fair and ethical trade and marketing practices.