Andrew Yule rationalises product-mix for exports

Government-owned Andrew Yule & Co Ltd is in the process of rationalising its product-mix for the electrical business in a bid to cater to the export market. Kallol Datta, chairman and managing director, Andrew Yule, said after the company’s annual general meeting that the company planned to focus on the export market for the electrical market, especially Africa. “We have got a good response,” he said.

The company was also seeking technological collaboration with Japanese and Korean firms. Andrew Yule has diverse business interests that include power, engineering and environment, electrical, lubricants, industrial electronics, tea, turnkey contracts and financial services. For the engineering division Bhel procures some products. Datta said, Bhel had a huge order book, which would augur well for the company.

As far as the tea division was concerned, Andrew Yule has extensive replantation plans. Apart from applying for the special purpose tea fund (SPTF), the company has also written to the central government for granting money for replantation. Over a 10-year period, Rs 50 crore would be required for replantation activities. Andrew Yule has 15 tea gardens across Darjeeling, Dooars and Assam, producing 10 million kg. The company primarily manufactures CTC while orthodox is produced selectively at some gardens in Darjeeling and Assam.

Tea firms brace for pesticide crackdown

The tea industry will suffer a major setback following a global ban on Endosulfan — a pesticide that is widely used in growing the crop. Endosulfan is set to be banned worldwide after the signing of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, or the POPs, treaty in Geneva in mid-October.

The ban on Endosulfan may lead to a fall in exports to some European countries, which now accept tea containing the pesticide within a maximum residuary limit.

India exported 203 million kg tea worth Rs 2,393 crore in 2008, of which almost 30 million kg were shipped to the European countries.

Endosulfan is still widely used in many countries to grow crops such as cotton, soy, coffee, tea and vegetables. It is also banned in 62 countries, including the European Union, as it is highly toxic for humans and other organisms.

The POPs review committee is considering a global ban for Endosulfan at the Geneva meet.

The Pesticide Action Network (PAN) of North America and the Environmental Justice Foundation, UK, are urging the Indian government to support the ban at the Geneva meet.

Indian officials have been trying hard to delay the ban.

The country is the world’s largest manufacturer of Endosulfan. “Indian officials are working to derail the Stockholm Convention process. They’ve used procedural tricks and given false information on Endosulfan’s impacts. They’re protecting the health of their chemical industry rather than the health of people and the environment,” said PAN scientist Karl Tupper. The PAN works with Indian organisations such as Thanal that are demanding an end to the use of the pesticide.

“I really do not know how we will manage pests from next year and yet be below the maximum residuary limit as maintained by the West,” Tea Research Association chairman C.S. Bedi told The Telegraph. Manufacturers are confident of Indian tea being accepted globally, but are worried about pest control after the ban.

Endosulfan is used more in north Indian plantations that produce the orthodox variety, which is exported to Europe. The main objection has come from the European Tea Committee. “Endosulfan is approved by the Central Insecticide Board of India and there are differences among the authorities of different nations,” Bedi said.

Tea awaits farm status

Tea is likely to be considered an agricultural commodity soon.

The empowered group of ministers (EGoM) for plantation — which was formed in July this year — will take a call on the issue, an industry source said.

“The EGoM will come up with appropriate measures, including structural reforms in vulnerable areas such as tea, coffee, pepper, and plantations. Until we get the recommendations in hand, we won’t be able to comment anything on this,” Union commerce minister Anand Sharma said here on the sidelines of the annual general meeting of the Indian Tea Association (ITA) today. The EGoM is headed by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee.

Under the Foreign Trade Policy unveiled in August, tea was brought under the Vishesh Krishi Upaj Yojana scheme to increase its competitiveness in the global market. Experts see the inclusion as a move towards giving tea the status of an agricultural commodity. Under the scheme, exports will be eligible for some duty relief.

Export hope

Indian exports are expected to do well compared with other countries, the commerce minister said.

“The steep fall in exports has been arrested. However, it will take a while to go back to the earlier levels of growth,” Sharma said.