As per the direction of the government, production has started in almost all the tea growing regions with certain restrictions and maintaining social distancing norms.
As planters resumed their operations at gardens with limited workforce amid the ongoing lockdown, Tea Board India has directed them to maintain quality and proposed to go for random checking of the crop to ensure that produced tea is compliant with food safety norms, an official said.
If the produced tea failed to adhere to the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI ) norms, it may not be allowed to be auctioned.
In view of the COVID-19 outbreak, tea gardens and manufacturing units across the country have witnessed stoppage in production.
However, as per the direction of the government, production has started in almost all the tea growing regions with certain restrictions and maintaining social distancing norms, the board said in a circular.
All producer associations were requested to “encourage their seller members to manufacture quality tea or tea compliant to Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI ) norms” so that the sellers are able to realise better price to minimise their loss incurred during the lockdown period.
“In this context, the board has proposed to do random checking of auction tea to check the compliance of FSSAI norms. The tea failing to adhere to the FSSAI parameters may not be allowed to be offered in the auctions depending on the extent of the violations by the producers,” according to the circular issued to planters.
The board spends about Rs 40-50 lakh annually to test tea to make sure that the crop adheres to the food safety parameters, its deputy chairman Arun Kumar Ray told PTI.
“Random checking is a regular exercise. Right now, the priority is to comply with the health safety norms and hygienic practices in tea gardens to combat the COVID-19 crisis,” he said.
Asked whether the board foresees any degradation of quality particularly when tea gardens are allowed to operate with a limited workforce in the wake of the lockdown , Ray said, “We do not think any impact on quality but annual volume will fall.”
Indian Tea Association chairman Vivek Goenka said random checking is “welcome” and the industry has been complying with food safety norms.