India and Iran to jointly review pesticide residue levels in teas

India and Iran will together review the issue of maximum residue levels (MRL) of pesticides in teas in order to increase India’s exports of the commodity to the high-value market.

During the visit of an official delegation, it was decided that a joint technical group would review this issue, at a time when Iranian importers are seeking increased level of orthodox tea exports from India, with an assurance on the MRL front.

“They want more of our orthodox teas,” a member of the delegation, which returned last month, told The Hindu . The 18-member-delegation was led by the additional secretary, commerce, and comprised members of the exporting community, officials of Tea Board, Indian Tea Association and research scientists from the Tea Board and the Tea Research Association. Orthodox teas are made in the same way as crush tear and curl CTC teas, but with most of the leaf remaining in tact, they are subtly flavourful and are the beverage of choice of discerning tea drinkers the world over. They also fetch better prices. Detailed discussions were held on the MRL issue and the need to align the pesticides in use in India and Iran came to light. The Indian team pointed out that the Indian teas were accepted worldwide.

Iran is an estimated 100 million kg market which is mostly serviced by Sri Lanka. Iran also produces some tea. India’s presence was muted in view of the earlier U.S. sanctions on Iran, which led to payment problems. This problem was circumvented by entering into an arrangement of setting off Indian exporters’ payments through the city-based UCO Bank against oil imports. Opportunities increased with the U.S. reviewing its earlier rigid position.

Buoyed by these developments, in 2012, a 30 million kg export target was set. However, after peaking at 23.1 million kg in 2013, exports plummeted to 18 million kg in 2014. A four-member Iranian delegation had visited India in October, 2014 to discuss these issues. India earned Rs.479.40 crores with a unit price of Rs.265 a kg. The price was among the highest commanded in the exports market in 2014.

According to official statistics, Indian tea exports fell between January-November, 2014. This was due to loss of Assam orthodox tea production (by almost 20 million kg) in the wake of delayed rains, and lower demand in the high-value markets such as the U.S., Iran and Russia. Availability of lower prices of teas from Africa at $2 a kg. in the international market and decrease in demand from Bangladesh due to re-imposition of tariff from April, 2014 also contributed to the decline. India ranks second in world production of tea and fourth in the world market as tea exporting country.

Iran is an estimated 100 million kg

market, which is mostly serviced

by Sri Lanka.

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