Nepali orthodox tea to go organic in five years

Kathmandu, August 23:

In response to growing health consciousness and demand for natural products, tea planters and entrepreneurs are mulling over making Nepali orthodox tea fully organic by 2012.

Himalayan Orthodox Tea Producers Association, Nepal (HOTPA), an umbrella organisation of orthodox tea producers and planters in the country, has unveiled an ambitious plan of making all orthodox tea produced in Nepal completely organic within the next five years.

“All orthodox tea produced in Nepal will be free of pesticides, insecticides, herbicides and other toxic chemicals by 2012,” says Deepak Prakash Baskota, chairman of HOTPA, adding that organic substances such as compost and bio-pesticides will be used to produce tea along with other organic agriculture system.

The new initiative comes in the wake of Nepali orthodox tea facing tougher non-tariff barriers in the international markets, especially in the European Union as well as other major markets.

Pesticide residue was found in Nepali tea during a lab test conducted recently in Germany, which sparked a serious threat of banning Nepali tea exports.

According to HOTPA, orthodox tea is grown at high altitude ranging from 1000m to 2500m above the sea level, mainly in the hills of eastern Nepal including Ilam, Pancthar, Terahthum and Dhankuta. It has now expanded to Sindhupalchowk as well as to Pokhara.

The land covered by orthodox tea plantation is estimated to be more than 7,500 hectares and the annual production is estimated at 1.6 million kg, which is growing at an annual average of 20 per cent. An interesting fact is that 95 per cent of the total production is exported, with a mere five per cent used for domestic consumption.

Nepal’s major market is India, which consumes 85 per cent of the total exports and remaining are being exported to Germany, USA, Japan and UK.

“The aroma, flavour and taste of Nepali orthodox tea is superb and its demand is very high in the upper segment of the market,” says Baskota, adding that Nepal tea has a huge scope.

He further says that the five-year plan of making all orthodox tea 100 per cent organic and pesticide-free is directed towards reaping maximum benefits and potential value in the international markets.

The industry stakeholders in collaboration with other partners have already adopted a Code of Conduct (CoC), which takes care of social, environment, process and quality related aspects of tea industry.

CoC meets requirements of major certification instruments such as ISO, Codex and HACCP and helps to promote the brand image of Nepal tea in the international markets.

In the last three years, a couple of tea estates have been certified as organic tea producers, while a couple more are in the process of getting certified.