RTI replies flag concerns about tea waste’s use as adulterant
The Tea Board’s response to an RTI query, filed by a Nilgiris resident, has revealed that 23 companies in Southern India were granted licenses to purchase “tea waste” between January 1, 2019, and November 5, 2019.
The replies given by authorities to two separate Right to Information (RTI) requests have raised concerns about the possibility that “tea waste,” ostensibly being bought for use in bio-fertilizer plants, is instead being used by manufacturers to adulterate tea.
The Tea Board’s response to an RTI query, filed by H. Intesar, a Nilgiris resident, has revealed that 23 companies in Southern India were granted licenses to purchase “tea waste” between January 1, 2019, and November 5, 2019. According to the government, tea waste is described as “tea sweepings, tea fluff, tea fiber or tea stalks or any article purporting to be tea which does not confirm to the specification for tea laid down under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954 (37 of 1954), but does not include green tea or green tea stalks.”
Of the 23 companies given licenses to purchase tea waste, 15 purchase it for use in bio-fertilizer plants, eight of which are located in Coimbatore and Tirupur, said Ms. Intesar. “When we filed another RTI query with the [Tamil Nadu] Department of Agriculture, it was clarified that none of the companies functioning in these areas have applied for permits to run bio-nutrient fertilizer facilities,” observed Ms. Intesar, who said that the findings raised major concerns about what was being done with the tea waste.
“If the tea waste is not being used to produce fertilizers, it could point to the waste being supplied to tea manufacturers to be used as an adulterant,” she added.
A tea manufacturer in the Nilgiris, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the RTI replies raised an “enormous number of questions, as to how much of the quantity of tea being produced in the Nilgiris is adulterated, and as to how many factories are involved in such practices”.
“It should be the responsibility of the Tea Board to ensure that companies that do purchase tea waste use it for the purposes that they are reporting,” the manufacturer said. “There should be periodic checks and action taken against companies purchasing tea waste without getting the requisite permissions,” he added.
Officials from the Tea Board said that based on the returns submitted by the manufacturers of bio-fertilizers, a total of 2.16 lakh kg of bio-fertilizer had been produced over the last five years by 15 companies.
A senior official from the Tea Board said that the allegations raised by the RTI activist would be seriously looked into. “We have already cracked down on a number of factories found to be adulterating tea, and will continue to aggressively clamp down on anyone found to be doing so,” asserted the official, who declined to be identified.
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