Tea Board proposes to replace old Act for benefit of industry

Indian tea growers is watching how a proposed legislation replacing the Tea Act of 1953 will protect them from imports, especially the cheap and poor varieties that have been the bane of the domestic planters for years.

The Tea Board is armed with four orders, flowing from the present Act, to exercise control over the industry.

With the stated objective of the new act to become a  facilitator from a controller, it is unlikely these ‘‘control orders’’ will reappear in the new regime in the present shape and form. The Centre is seeking public comments on the proposed act.

At the insistence of the Darjeeling planters, the board in the last three months has repeatedly used one of the orders — Tea (Distribution and Export) Control Order, 2005 — to check the quality of imports from  Nepal.

The Tea Board uses this legislation to exercise control over export, import and the distribution of imported teas.

The board on November 11 used a provision of the order to direct ‘‘the labels should clearly indicate on the packaging that the contents of the blended tea are imported, giving the the source of the origin of the imported tea irrespective of whether the imported tea has been bought directly by the seller or through an intermediary’’.

Again on December 22, the board used the order to ensure exporters clearly mention the origin of tea on their packages and invoices. The board had made it mandatory for importers to inform it where they stored their teas within 24 hours of such import. 

Tea imports for three years up to March 31, 2020 stood at 60.35 million kg — of which  23.43 million kg were re-exported and 36.92 million kg distributed within the country.  The imports depressed prices, financially straining the large planters.