Vivek Chhetri, TT, Darjeeling, July 14: The Darjeeling Tea Association today requested the Centre to amend the Indo-Nepal Free Trade Agreement to stem the flow of brew from the neighbouring country to India as it was affecting the local industry and had an adverse impact on the world’s most famous tea.
Addressing the annual general meeting of the DTA here, its chairman Sheo Shankar Bagaria said: “Tea from our neighbouring country Nepal is imported under Indo-Nepal Free Trade Agreement and sold to the unsuspecting Indian consumers in the retail loose tea markets. The teas are imported at very low prices. The tea industry in the neighbouring country is mostly an unorganised sector.”
He said the Indian Tea Industry provided permanent employment and had social commitments. But wages in the neighbouring country are 50 per cent low, he added.
“The low priced orthodox tea import is affecting the demand and prices of Darjeeling Tea,” said Bagaria.
President Pranab Mukherjee was the chief guest at the meeting.
Sandeep Mukherjee, the principal advisor to the DTA, said: “As per the Indo-Nepal Free Trade Agreement of 1954, Nepal tea can be imported into India without any import duty. There is also this issue of Nepal tea being sold as Darjeeling Tea.”
There are over 80 tea gardens in the Darjeeling hills, employing nearly 60,000 permanent workers and 40,000 seasonal labourers.
India had given Geographic Indicator status to Darjeeling Tea in 2003. The GI tag implies that only the produce of a particular area can be sold using its generic name.
Bagaria said: “We understand that there is ongoing negotiation on the Indio-Nepal free Trade Agreement which will come up for renewal in the year 2017. We appeal to the Union government to take necessary steps to amend the agreement to not allow the import of orthodox variety of teas to protect the intellectual property rights of the fame Darjeeling Tea.”