On October 18, the Tea Board of India amended its earlier notification that had completely banned the blending of Indian teas enjoying the geographical indications (GI) tags with imported ones. The earlier notification had a major impact as top Indian tea buyers of the Darjeeling tea had stopped buying it. They used to buy the Darjeeling tea and mix it with other varieties to sell it at a cheaper rate in the Indian market, as the pure Darjeeling tea is expensive.
According to the Darjeeling tea growers, the restriction has placed them in a terrible difficulty since more than 12% of Darjeeling tea, which was previously purchased by a single corporate customer before to the blending ban, has been forced to be sold at distressed prices.
Because there were fewer bidders for top quality Darjeeling tea in both the auction and open market, the price fell while the cost of production soared exponentially due to labour and coal price increases.
"The export of Darjeeling tea is 3 to 4 million kg, while the production stands at roughly 7 million kg per annum," said Rishi Saria, director of Gopaldhara and Rohini tea estates. Essentially, 3 to 4 million kilogrammes must be sold within India. Demand in the domestic market has decreased as purchasers have discovered an alternative in Nepal tea."
Because of the restriction on combining Indian teas with GI tags with foreign teas, big purchasers of blend teas began sourcing it from Sri Lanka and Nepal. Nepal Tea is produced under climatic conditions and terrain comparable to Darjeeling Hills, with lower production costs, affecting the livelihood of Darjeeling tea growers. According to a Tuesday announcement from the Tea Board of India, retailers can now blend Darjeeling tea with any other kind, including Nepal tea, in their bags – as long as the finished product does not claim to be a unique item covered by the GI mark.
The majority of Darjeeling Tea planters believe this will have an immediate positive influence on the Darjeeling tea business. "A prominent corporate house used to blend Darjeeling tea with Nepal tea," said Anshsuman Kanoria, head of the Indian Tea Exporters' Association and owner of the Tindharia and Goomtee tea estates in Darjeeling highlands. However, they were not in violation of the GI Tag since they never claimed to be selling pure Darjeeling tea. I believe the government intended to safeguard Darjeeling tea, yet the November announcement inflicted a significant damage to the Darjeeling tea business. It prevented the largest Darjeeling tea customer from purchasing a non-Darjeeling bundle. This resulted in an almost 12% drop in Darjeeling Tea sales.