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Licence must for selling Darjeeling tea - Tea Board

Licence must for selling Darjeeling tea - Tea Board
The Tea Board has made it mandatory for retailers and boutique owners to obtailicences for using the name 'Darjeeling' before selling the premium variety in West Bengal, a directive that comes amid concerns raised by domestic industry over the much cheaper Nepalese tea flooding the Indian market over the past one year and being passed off as Darjeeling tea. The board, which administers the rights of certification trade marks for the name and logo of Darjeeling tea, has also made it clear that it can carry out inspections to ascertain whether the retailers are selling the genuine Darjeeling tea. "No person can sell or export tea under any mark that contains the name 'Darjeeling' or carry out any activity connected with the sale of export of tea that involves the use of 'Darjeeling', unless such person is authorised in writing by the Tea Board," a senior Tea Board official said.

Entry of Nepalese tea into the Indian market has emerged as a threat to Darjeeling tea industry, with leading retailers from Darjeeling including Nathmulls Tea complaining that even in Darjeeling retailers are passing off Nepalese tea as Darjeeling tea. Girish Sarda, partner, Nathmulls Tea told ET: "We have the licence to sell pure Darjeeling tea from Tea Board as we have been exporting Darjeeling teas for many years. However, there are some retailers and tea boutiques that are selling Nepal teas as Darjeeling tea."

According to Sarda, Nepalese tea costs half that of Darjeeling tea, providing much higher margins to retailers. "The consumers generally cannot differentiate between Nepal tea and Darjeeling tea easily," he said.

While Darjeeling tea costs Rs 500-600 per kg on average, the price of Nepalese tea is Rs 250-300 per kg. According to Tea Board, the name Darjeeling and the Darjeeling logo cannot be used on such packets which do not contain 100 per cent Darjeeling tea produced in one of the 87 tea estates that are listed under the certification trade mark regulations. "Any packet which contains teas that do not originate in the 87 tea gardens cannot use the name and logo of Darjeeling which would lead the ordinary consumer to believe that packet contains 100 per cent Darjeeling tea," the Tea Board official said.

The Tea Board is tightening norms to prevent adulteration of Darjeeling tea in any form, said SS Bagaria, chairman of Darjeeling Tea Association. "Adulteration becomes an issue where loose Darjeeling tea is sold. In packet form such adulteration is not reported," he said. In 2014, production of Darjeeling tea declined by 10 per cent to 8 million kg due to a dry spell. "Domestic consumption was affected due to Nepalese teas and on the export front realisation was less because euro declined against dollar," said Bagaria. Darjeeling tea is mostly sold in European markets, with Germany being the largest buyer.

ET Bureau

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