Indian Tea’s Sustainability Story

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"Sustainability"

Dear Aravinda,

greetings from Germany. I couldnt agree more with what you said in this article and I am happy to read and share your perspective. It is indeed a complex situation. As importers, we committed ourselves to purchase certified tea only (organic, rainfoerst, fairtrade, etp, etc.). However if the certification-system is apperantly not working and the promised standards are in fact not practically established in the gardens: sustainability remains on paper only it seems.

I have spend a good year in several tea gardens in India to learn about growing and production but I also worked several months with an NGO in Darjeeling/Terai to see the life in a tea garden from a complete different angle. I commited myself to tea as a tea trader dispite the overall dark situation in hope to be able to change the industry at least a little.
but we also source from Sri Lanka, Kenya, China, Southern India, etc..Therefore, we as an importing operation are not possibly able to monitor the various living-conditions in all origins and regions where we source from as the socio-economic contexts are far to heteorogenous and complex: hence the commitment to certified tea and outsourcing this NGO-related work to professionals and experts. Wouldnt a short-term solution simply be to stricter the monitoring of the control bodies?

Meanwhile I find it rather bios that particularly the western world discusses "sustainability in supply chains" but in fact hardly manages to meet even the lowest standards of human coexistence and ILO core conventions with the selected suppliers in the third world (e.g. textile, precious metals, electronics, cacao, etc.). Unfortunately the term "sustainability" is an empty phrase beeing used inflationary and proudly by brands and certifiers as soon as the worst cases of forced child-labour have been eleiminted. However some of those "sutainability goals" should -in my opinion- be the very basic precondiction for any business relationship whatsoever.

To throw some colour on this dark picture:
Solutions are available plus the awareness and behavious of consumer is developing. Digitialisation offers traceability-solutions, travelling and accessing remote areas has become easier, NGOs and certifiers are basically committed to their standards and younger generations in the trade have willingness to develop post-colonial and post-capitalistic ideas such as sharing value. Having said this, everyone needs to pay a little more- thats for sure.

I see sustainability as an car in a repair shop and all parts are available but we didnt manage to assable them all yet right.

Best,
Jan
jd@kktee.de

Jan 27 days ago

Re: Sustainability

Hi Jan,
Thank you so much for your message. It certainly offers another perspective to this conversation. Also wonderful to see the deep engagement you've sought to make with the producers. Like you say, it's not an easy answer. The intention behind certifications may be sound but in implementing, the compliance seems to take over. For producers, it's more work that comes with the question of whether certifications are an expense or an investment. Afraid, the answers don't come in a one-size fits all, isn't it.
Which is also why i think it's an ongoing process. I see everything being done in this space important and necessary, as it offers the possibility of change for the better. And prevents complacence.
Thanks, once again.
Best,
Aravinda

Aravinda Anantharaman 26 days ago

Sustainability in Indian Tea

100% correct, Jan. Trustea certification was a response by large multinationals to the Greenpeace exposé on pesticides in tea. When Trustea was announced we thought it was a good thing, and embraced it enthusiastically. Problem arose when estates found themselves saddles solely with the burden of huge annual certifying costs.
The other problem with it was that unlike organic or RA certification not a Rupee extra was given to Trustea Certified estates. The costs and hassle of maintaining exacting records was the reason that we like many other gardens dumped Trustea.
In light of the terrible plight of workers in urban India left high and dry during the Covid lockdown underscores the importance of the PLA. Yes, there are many issues with it. But they protect the rights of the poorest of our country and with modifications needs to be implemented across industries.

sonia jabbar 25 days ago

Tea sustainibility

Yes sustainibility is a very big issue. As rightly pointed out that PLA of 1951 is redundant, backwardness,remote areas is a myth in today's context when half of the residents use the estate land as their fiefdom, working outside & just nothing to the development of the properties. They indulge in nefarious activities stealing precious timber, gealing in drugs and opening hooch shops with the administration looking the other way. Me as a planter in the Cachar district have been facing such issues which is expanding with each passing day, political interference which hitherto was almost nil 20 yrs ago, bonhomie, cooperation between planters has been overtaken by greed. Labour poaching is the order of the day. Absenteeism has crossed all limits. How do u sustain unless one plucks the entire plantation in designated number of days to make fairly acceptale teas and how can development/replacement happen unless labour is available for plucking.
I am of the view that tea estates should stop development. This will help the industry overcome labour issues, costs and more importantly prices can remain buoyant. This step is a short term strategy so that planters can recover some what.

Anil Goenka 29 days ago

Sustainable Indian tea

Brilliant Article capturing different nuances of sustainability in the Indian tea sector. Must read. Demystifies the world of certifications.

Akash 31 days ago

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