Sri Lanka and India unite over pesticide limits

Tea producing neighbours India and Sri Lanka will join forces to lobby for a common standard for minimum pesticide residual levels in black tea. Tea producing countries are also calling for a change in the way the tea is tested, accounting for the fact that black tea is drunk rather than chewed and eaten.

Existing minimum residue limits are fixed on tealeaves and not their brew.

A report in Asia Siyaka’s weekly tea report quoted Indian Tea Board chief Basudeb Banerjee saying that MRL (minimum residual levels) standards should be finalized after studying the effects on human beings and not just on minimum detectable limits.

Meanwhile, Banerjee has said tea producing nations, in India, Sri Lanka or any other producer, does not know the final destination of the tea so it is difficult to meet a particular set of minimum residue limits.

The two countries are therefore lobbying for a common standard and have proposed that the MRL is set under Codex Alimentarius, the body set up by the FAO and World Health Organization (WHO) that finalizes standards and prepares guidelines on all food items.

The issue has been discussed a number of times by the Intergovernmental Group on Tea, and is expected to strongly lobbied as EU has proposed new MRL for its members from January but at a level which is still not in line with the rest of the world, the Asia Siyaka Report said.

At the Colombo tea auctions meanwhile, the gross sales average at the end of the last sale for 2005 at Rs. 184.43 is up from Rs. 180.18 recorded in December 2004.

Despite the higher annual average, the weekly average continues to fall below 2004 levels, as quality levels falter.

The 2005 weekly average at Rs. 194.69 is far below the Rs. 211.75 posted at the end of 2004.

Tea industry officials say wet weather and overcast conditions across the tea growing regions are to blame for the suffering quality of tea.

The industry is however expecting a break in the weather in early January and a subsequent improvement in quality.