Tea board initiatives yield quality fruit, says Bhanu
Initiatives taken by the Tea Board of India to improve the quality of Indian tea have borne fruit, as not a single consignment of tea has been returned citing poor quality in the past year.
The outgoing chairman of the Tea Board of India M.G.V.K. Bhanu told The Telegraph that many initiatives were taken to improve the quality of tea during his tenure in the past two years.
Bhanu will hand over charge as chairman on December 26 in Calcutta and return to work for the Assam government.
Two tea councils have been set up, one for South India and one for the north, in order to monitor the quality of tea meant for export and for imported teas meant for re-export.
“This initiative has helped improve the quality image of Indian tea abroad and it is worthwhile to note that during the last one year, not a single consignment of tea has been returned due to poor quality” Bhanu said.
Earlier, buyers had raised concerns regarding the quality of Indian tea and consignments had been rejected because of this.
The setting up of a separate directorate to look after the needs of small tea growers, which now account for more than 35 per cent of the country’s production, was also an important initiative.
A separate cadre of engineering graduates has been deployed as factory advisory officers to render technical guidance to tea factories and help them adopt good manufacturing practices.
A sustainable development programme — Trustea, which aims to assure the consumer that what he is drinking is a safe cup of tea — was also launched this year.
On his two-year tenure, Bhanu said he had delivered whatever he had committed at the time of joining the Tea Board. “It is particularly satisfying to me that I have been able to set in motion several activities aimed at improving the overall quality image of Indian tea both in the country and in the international market,” he said.
On the future of the tea industry, which has a steady demand for natural healthy beverage the world over, he said it would grow from strength to strength. Bhanu said production this year in India is expected to touch an all-time high of 1,180 million kg — an increase of 200 million kg since last year.
“This 200 million kg increase was not entirely owing to favourable climatic conditions. It was also due to better collection and collation of production data by activating field officers of the board. Also, this significant rise in production has not adversely impacted tea prices in the domestic market, which would indicate that domestic consumption is on the rise. But the actual domestic demand needs to be assessed properly to keep the demand and supply in fine balance,” he said.
In five to seven years, small tea growers will contribute around 50 per cent of India’s total tea production but this does not mean that this sector is going to be a competitor against the organised sector, Bhanu said.
“On the other hand, both the sectors stand to benefit through a symbiotic relationship,” he added.
On the problem of maximum residue level (MRL) where importing countries have their own standards, he hoped that some unanimity regarding uniform standards would be reached among the consuming countries in the near future. Bhanu said the auction system is being fine-tuned to make it user-friendly and attract more buyers to participate in the system.
Two cheers for Pakke tiger reserve in Artunachal Pradesh: melanistic golden cat and chinese pangolin found
Guwahati, Dec. 22: Two records — the spotting of melanistic golden cats and a Chinese pangolin during camera-trapping exercise — have brought cheer to the 862 square km Pakke tiger reserve in Arunachal Pradesh.
Six tigers comprising three males and three females were also spotted apart from leopard, clouded leopard, wild dog, Asiatic black bear and others.
The camera-trapping, which helped determine the minimum number of tigers in the sampled area within the reserve, was conducted from December 2012 to January 2013 in two ranges — Seijosa and Tipi — of the tiger reserve.
The exercise was conducted as part of the phase-IV monitoring of tiger and prey population under Project Tiger in collaboration with the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), Arunachal forest department and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) - India . Fifty-seven locations were chosen for deployment of cameras.
The NTCA, in its report, said, “For the first time in Pakke tiger reserve. four melanistic golden cats (Pardofelis temminckii) were photo-captured during the camera-trap season and there was a first photographic record of the Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla) too.”
The report said besides tigers, other co-predators and prey species were also spotted during the survey, implying that despite the low-density area in terms of wildlife, there is a good assemblage of carnivores as well as herbivores in the tiger reserve.
“The reserve, which is considered one of the global bio-diversity hotspots, is rich in wildlife and if all the areas were surveyed properly, there could be more such first-time records,” Tana Tapi, divisional forest officer of Pakke tiger reserve, told The Telegraph.
The Pakke reserve is bounded by a contiguous forest of Nameri tiger reserve in the south, Kameng river in the north and west, and Pakke river in the east.
The reserve has a great diversity of mammalian faunas with at least 40 species recorded. It is also rich in avifauna with 294 species.
The NTCA said as Pakke tiger reserve is adjacent to Nameri tiger reserve in Assam, joint monitoring work needs to be done for this tiger landscape.
“This will help us understand the true dispersal and survival of individuals within the population, which is essentially the same but managed by different administrations. This will also help in planning management strategies and will have important conservation implications for tigers as well as other wildlife that exists in this landscape,” it said.
The NTCA has said monitoring of prey species for tigers and other large predators should be continued on an annual basis to understand whether prey populations are in the process of recovery, have stabilised or reached carrying capacity. Development activities, poaching and indiscriminate felling of tress leading to habitat loss are some of the prominent threats to Pakke tiger reserve, sources said.
Wagh Bakri pays Rs 40 lakh to buy tea at auction in Guwahati
A tippy golden flowery orange pekoe — an orthodox variety grade tea from a garden in Arunachal Pradesh — fetched Rs 73,000 a kg at the grand charity auction held today.
Wagh Bakri — India’s third largest tea packet company, bought the tea.
Sources said the company has spent Rs 28 lakh to buy 38kg of the tea. The company had spent around Rs 40 lakh to buy tea at the auction.
The Rs 700-crore Gujarat-based company, which sources 30 million kg of Assam tea, controls a 15 per cent share of the country’s 360 million kg packet tea market.
The top two packet tea companies in the country are Hindustan Unilever Ltd and Tata Tea.
Wagh Bakri markets 35 million kg, of which 30 million kg is Assam tea, 4 million kg from Dooars and 1 million kg from South India
Of the Assam tea segment, 12 million kg is procured from gardens and 18 million kg through auction, of which 8 million kg is from the Guwahati Tea Auction Centre.
“Assam tea will always have its own place as it is known for its body,” Piyush Desai, the chairman of Wagh Bakri Tea Group, said today.
The tea belongs to Mouling Tea Processors, a company registered under the Tea Board and situated in Upper Siang district.
Though the first session had already netted Rs 86 lakh, tremendous activity was seen in the last session and with chief minister Tarun Gogoi in the chair, inspiration soon followed.
As the last lot — number 11 — came up for sale, it was known that there was going to be surprises and the buyers bid higher.
And when the deal was settled at Rs 73,000 a kg, a hush descended on the audience. The session was conducted by actor Victor Banerjee and director J. Thomas Ravi Suchanti.
Not only from the tea world, there were guests from the fashion world and wildlife world, too. From the wildlife sector was conservationist Prerna Singh Bindra and from the fashion world was Zoya Afroz — Femina Miss India 2013.
The auctioneer for the last lot of tea was Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi who hit the hammer when the tea was sold finally for Rs 73,000, bringing cheers from the audience.
Altogether, 26,667 kg of tea was auctioned today at two venues in the city — at GTAC and at ITA Pragjyoti auditorium.
A sum of Rs 1.83 crore was collected from the special charity auction and the money will go to three organisations working in the disability sector.
The three organisations, which will benefit from the proceeds of the auction, are Moran Blind School, and Vaani and Shishu Sarothi, both NGOs.
A number of important personalities of the tea world, including Jaffer Ali, the first man to buy tea from the Guwahati Tea Auction Centre, were present on the occasion.
The first lot at GTAC was auctioned on September 25, 1970 and was auctioned at a price of Rs 42.50 per kg (considered to be fabulous during those days) and knocked down the hammer to a local trader from Jorhat, Jaffar Ali of Diamond Tea Co.
Jaffer, with a never-say-die spirit surprised many by buying tea at Rs 2,500 per kg in the second session, which was greeted by a big applause from the audience.
Retired Supreme Court Judge S.N. Phukan, who owns Bahoni tea estate — the first garden to send tea to GTAC in 1970 — asked planters to send more teas to the GTAC.
“The gesture shown by the buyers for participating in today’s special auction meant for the disabled, was tremendous,” Kamal Das, a senior official of Paramount Tea Marketing (P) Ltd, told The Telegraph.
The first session saw brisk buying from the tea buyers who relished the manual outcry system.
In fact they were bidding with great energy knowing that the cause is equally great.
In the first session, Assam industries minister Pradyut Bordoloi became an auctioneer and enjoyed the brief changeover from a politician to an auctioneer.
The auction saw good participation from all from the organised tea sector. The bought-leaf factories, too, have sent tea. Apart from CTC tea, orthodox tea was also offered.
Helping hand stirs GTAC cup of tea
It is going to be business, emotional connect and joining hands for a cause on Tuesday at the Guwahati Tea Auction Centre (GTAC).
The grand charity tea auction, organised by the GTAC and partnered by The Telegraph, and held to support three organisations working in the disability sector on World Disability Day will also be an emotional occasion for the GTAC to connect with people who started the centre in 1970, braving opposition and surmounting problems.
The three organisations which will benefit from the proceeds of the auction are Moran Blind School, and Vaani and Shishu Sarothi, both NGOs.
“It is an important day for us as we will work towards restoring the brand equity of GTAC and showing our solidarity for a social cause. We are calling all those who were connected with the first sale in GTAC in September 1970. A lot of effort has gone into starting the centre which had faced a lot of opposition,” industries and commerce minister Pradyut Bordoloi told The Telegraph.
A total of 26,667kg tea will be auctioned at two venues in the city — GTAC and Indian Tea Association, Pragjyoti auditorium at Machkhowa — to raise funds for the cause of disability.
“The cause is good and buyers will like to associate their name with it. They will not be miserly and would pay good price,” Nirav Patel, a tea buyer for a major tea packet firm of the country, told this correspondent. Top people in the tea industry apart from buyers from Ahmedabad, Surat, Mumbai, Delhi, Kanpur and Calcutta will take part in the event.
Sources said teas could fetch anything between Rs 75 lakh and Rs 1 crore.
The first venue is the GTAC where 23,235kg will be auctioned in 96 lots in the morning. In the evening, the auction will be held at Indian Tea Association, Pragjyoti auditorium, Machkhowa, which will be attended by chief minister Tarun Gogoi. In this session, 3,432kg tea will be auctioned.
Apart from the organised tea sector, bought-leaf factories, too, have sent tea. Two gardens from Arunachal Pradesh are also participating in the auction. Among the top companies, McLeod Russel is offering 1,505kg while Amalgamated Plantations Private Ltd is giving 304kg. Apart from CTC (crush, tear and curl) tea, different grades of orthodox tea are also on offer.
In fact, the highest amount of tea being offered by a single garden is Segunbari Tea Company Ltd of Margherita. The company is offering 1,228 kg of broken pekoe grade.
“I had earlier sent only a few packages, but later increased it substantially when I came to know about the cause,” Gautam Beria of Segunbari Tea Company Ltd said. “There has been so much of criticism of the tea sector and I think this is the best platform from where we can say that we also care for society,” he said.
“By organising this auction for the benefit of civil society organisations working for the disabled, GTAC has once again re-affirmed its commitment to social responsibility,” Arman Ali, executive director of Shishu Sarothi, said. Brinda Crishna, managing trustee of Vaani, said: “ The biggest advantage will be creation of awareness on disability. A new section of people will be knowing about it,” she added.