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"Golden Threads of Progress: Piyush Goyal Unveils a Vision for a Flourishing Jute Industry!"

In response to growing concerns about the quality of imported teas flooding the Indian market, Union Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal has directed the Food Safety & Standard Authority of India (FSSAI) to enhance nationwide testing and bolster testing facilities. The move is part of a broader effort to ensure that both imported and domestic teas meet stringent food and safety standards.

Tea imports to India reached 29.84 million kilos in 2022, with neighboring Nepal accounting for about 55% of total imports until August 2023. With the industry facing challenges, including a steady rise in imports from Nepal impacting prices and demand in the domestic market, the government is taking steps to address quality concerns.

The Commerce Minister’s directive, issued during a meeting with north Indian tea producers under the Tea Board’s umbrella, emphasizes the need for increased testing frequency. Specifically, tests will focus on determining the maximum residue level (MRL) of pesticide residue in imported teas. The goal is to guarantee that imported teas adhere to the highest safety standards mandated by the FSSAI.

Aman-deep Singh Bhatia, Chairman of the Tea Board, highlighted the decision to intensify testing and expressed the importance of addressing concerns about the quality of imported teas. The plan includes not only scrutinizing imported teas but also stepping up testing on domestically produced teas.

The Darjeeling tea industry, in particular, has been grappling with the impact of rising imports from Nepal since 2017. This surge has led to a decline in prices and diminished demand, with some industry insiders alleging that substandard Nepali teas are flooding the market.

Sanjay Choudhury, an advocate for compliance and owner of a tea estate, criticized the perceived inadequacy of tests conducted by FSSAI, Customs, and the Tea Board on imported teas. He emphasized the need for comprehensive analysis based on FSSAI regulations.

In previous attempts to address substandard tea imports, the Modi government issued four circulars under the Tea Marketing Control Order, 2003, and Tea (distribution & export) Control Order, 2005, in November 2021, specifically aimed at protecting Darjeeling teas.

Additionally, to enhance transparency and price discovery in the industry, the Centre has agreed to auction 100% of north Indian dust teas for a trial period from April 1. This move aims to evaluate the impact on prices and quality, as currently, only 50% of teas are required to be sold via auction.

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In a separate development, Union Commerce and Textile Minister Piyush Goyal addressed issues in the jute sector, acknowledging the challenges posed by increasing imports of jute from Nepal and Bangladesh. The Indian Jute Mills Association (IJMA) favors countervailing duties on imports, and Goyal proposed the creation of a jute advisory group to identify improvements and recommend necessary changes.

During the inauguration of Patsan Bhawan, a unified complex for the jute sector, Goyal emphasized the need for diversification in jute products, increased demand for the golden fiber, and expanded jute goods exports from India. He also encouraged uniform quality testing at the farm level and proposed exploring the utilization of the government’s research and development fund for technical textiles.

Goyal’s vision includes the formation of a jute advisory group comprising industry stakeholders to address challenges and promote sustainable growth. With a rising number of small jute mills in Bengal, the minister suggested opening up IJMA membership for these mills, fostering inclusivity in the industry.

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