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.