The Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH), along with two other bodies, is spearheading a move to evolve a sustainability code for the Indian tea industry to benchmark it against international practices. IDH is a body which gets together companies, civil society and the government towards sustainable production practices worldwide. The initiative is being supported by Hindustan Unilever which has a major presence in the packaged tea segment.

An important aspect of the programme is to bring within its fold, small tea growers who now account for over 30 per cent of India’s tea production.

Announcing this initiative, whose pilot would be launched next week, Tea Board of India Chairman M. G. V. K. Bhanu said that this was the first time that producers and marketers were getting together to adopt a sustainability code. Altogether five million farm workers are engaged in this industry.

The target is to cover, under the sustainability code, 500 million kg of production by 2018. Safety, health and welfare of the workforce and their working condition are the principles of the code.

Major packeters including Tata Global Beverages and tea producing companies such as McLeod Russel India, Associated Planters Pvt. Ltd, Harrisons Malayalam, Chamong Tea and the Confederation of Indian Small Tea Association have joined the initiative.

“Global businesses are increasingly seeking to provide sustainable products to all customers and this move is likely to enhance the competitiveness of Indian tea in international markets.” Also involved in the effort is Rainforest Alliance and an organisation called Solidard which is an international body which helps create sustainable supply chain from production to consumption.

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