The Indian tea industry has grown and changed manifold over the years. It is now faced with many challenges due to climate change, declining soil fertility, old age of plantations, dwindling availability of labour force and emergence of small tea growers. Consumers now increasingly demand products produced sustainably without adversely impacting the environment, and expect that the producers are responsible towards maintaining resources for future generations. Global businesses are seeking to provide sustainable products to all customers in all markets. Therefore, they are benchmarking their own sustainability principles with different international and local codes.
Sustainability more important
The need of the hour, therefore, is to face these challenges effectively and sustain this magnificent industry, which provides livelihood to millions of the people and wonderful flavours of tea to consumers. Given these challenges,the need to embrace sustainability becomes more and more important. The tea industry is well aware of the importance of sustainability and it is progressive in its outlook for the future. Many leading tea houses have already embraced the sustainability principles and are adopting them in letter and spirit in order to deliver tea conforming to the food safety standards.
Development of local Indian sustainability code
However, the adoption level of sustainable production standards across all segments of the industry is yet to reach the optimum level. The Tea Board of India is, therefore, focusing on developing a sustainable tea code based on Indian realities and globally accepted sustainability principles to reach out to those segments of the industry. This sustainability code – to be named Trustea, which has been officially launched in Kolkata today – is being developed in partnership with IDH-The Sustainable Trade Initiative, Solidaridad, The Rainforest Alliance with the support of Hindustan Unilever Limited and Tata Global Beverages.
Trustea is answer to future demand
The code encompasses all aspects of tea production and seeks to embrace sustainability principles to boost productivity, maintain safety standards to improve quality compliance, and include all stakeholders in the mainstream. It involves the introduction of an India-specific sustainability code which has been tailor-made to be owned by the Indian tea industry. The Trustea code on full scale adoption by the Indian tea industry would lead to production of “Certified” safe and hygienic teas- safer, healthier and more environmentally friendly teas. The programme would gear up the industry to be ready for facing future consumer and customer demands, safeguard the competitiveness of the Indian tea industry, maintaining improved relationships and loyalty in the supply chain and other stakeholders, long-term security of supply for the Indian tea market, healthier plantations, workers and the environment, international recognition of sustainable tea practices in India.
The Trustea code is bound to improve the social and economic conditions of the tea industry and give an assurance to consumers that they are getting a safe and good cup of tea. Thus, securing long-term sustainability of the India tea industry will significantly benefit all its stakeholders. The Trustea code is still in its pilot phase and will be tested in a range of geographic locations within India and on different farm and plantation sizes. During the pilot phase the Trustea Logo will not be used on consumer packaging. The Tea Board is of the view that effective implementation of the code will enable the tea industry in facing effectively the sustainability challenges, safeguard the plantation environment, welfare of all stakeholders and long-term security of supply. These challenges are to be addressed with a sense of urgency.