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Rampant use of pesticides has started to hurt the tea industry in India as reports of “series of tea consignments” being rejected by international and domestic buyers due to presence of chemicals surfaced.

On June 3, Indian Tea Exporters Association (ITEA) chairman Anshuman Kanoria revealed that both international and domestic buyers have rejected a series of tea consignments due to the presence of pesticides and chemicals beyond permissible limits.

A PTI report quoting Kanoria said that while Indian tea could have replaced the vacuum created by the absence of export from crisis-hit Sri Lanka, the new development has hurt the Indian prospects.

“The rejection of consignments is causing a decline in outward shipments,” the report said.

The official said that while all tea sold in India must adhere to the rules laid by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), “most of the buyers are purchasing tea that have unusually high chemical content.”

He added that many countries are following strict entry regulations for tea. “Most of the countries follow variations of the EU standards, which are more stringent than the FSSAI rules,” the report said.

In 2021, India exported 195.90 million kg tea. The major buyers were Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) nations and Iran. The board is aiming to achieve 300 million kg tea this year.

“Instead of complying with the law, many are urging the government to make the FSSAI norms more liberal,” the official was quoted as saying, adding that this would send a wrong signal as the beverage is considered to be a health drink.

A senior official of Tea Board told PTI that complaints have been received from tea packers and exporters on the issue.

“It is reiterated that producers should strictly abide by the extant FSSAI norms. The issue of modification of the norms has been raised by the producers’ organisations with FSSAI. It is obvious that exports should adhere to the existing norms of the importing countries,” he said.

India exported tea worth Rs 5,246.89 crore in 2021.

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