India’s top commercial crop, its tea trade, will now come under the authority of the country’s top food safety watchdog.
According to a statement from the Tea Board of India, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) will control standards of the country’s entire tea industry.
“Effective Feb 1, 2013, no teas can either be exported from or imported into India without conforming to FSSAI parameters, and teas will be subjected to random testing,” the announcement revealed.
Image and quality
The move is being called a measure to protect the image of Indian tea globally, as well as to ensure consistent quality among domestic tea producers.
However, this is a step away from tradition, where the Tea Board has historically regulated the trade of tea in the country.
Media sources have reported that the move was made as a result of a background of tea quality issues in the recent past. It is in line with the Tea Board’s other recent measures to enhance the image of Indian tea on the global market.
This includes the setting up of tea councils for both north and south India, and the launch of a mandatory online mechanism to track all exports and imports of tea, as well as increasing the frequency of checks on quality.
In April this year, the Indian government also announced that tea will be affirmed as the country’s national drink within the next 12 months—a move that it said would benefit beleaguered local growers.
Indian tea makers have said before that the national status would help the drink sell in greater quantities domestically, now that its traditional export markets, like the UK, are drinking less tea than before, as per data from the FAO.
Tea Board officials did not respond to requests for comments.