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Smallholder tea producers profit from harmonized security requirements | FAO

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Tea started its journey in the direction of turning into essentially the most broadly consumed beverage on the planet, after water, some 5 000 years in the past. In keeping with folklore, a couple of tea leaves by chance wafted right into a pot of water {that a} Chinese language emperor was boiling, giving off a wealthy aroma and attractive the emperor to drink it. Thus was born the tea tradition that started in Asia and unfold to Europe within the 1600s, with European international locations then establishing huge tea plantations of their tropical colonies. Right now, it takes greater than 4 million tonnes of tea to fulfill annual shopper demand, a quantity that will increase yearly. A lot of the massive tea estates have been changed by smallholder producers, who usually have problem complying with a number of security requirements on use of pesticides. In 2012, after a decade of concerted work, the FAO Intergovernmental Group (IGG) on Tea, a subsidiary physique of the Committee on Commodity Issues (CCP), spearheaded an settlement that harmonized pesticide requirements, making tea manufacturing safer for shoppers and defending the livelihoods of tens of millions of smallholder producers worldwide. 

Tea doesn’t begin its existence in adorned tins or tidy tea luggage. It comes from the leaves of Camellia sinensis, which is grown in additional than 50 international locations however primarily discovered within the fields of 4 – China, India, Kenya and Sri Lanka. Whereas in these fields, tea crops should battle a number of pure enemies – fungus, micro organism and bugs reminiscent of butterflies, moths, scale and nematodes. To maximise output, tea growers apply an assortment of chemical substances and pesticides that management the pests however have the potential of harming shoppers if an excessive amount of stays on the leaves as they’re processed. 

Traditionally, the tea worth chain was dominated by massive, government-supported tea estates, however that has modified as smallholders have develop into the primary producers within the more and more world tea commerce. Greater than 70 p.c of nationwide tea manufacturing in Sri Lanka and Kenya now comes from smallholders, which means they function from holdings of lower than three hectares.

This motion is comprehensible, as tea manufacturing is a lovely proposition for small farmers. Though the crops require two to 3 years to mature, they then produce for 30 years or extra. Tea manufacturing additionally offers work and revenue all year long and requires a comparatively small funding. 

Stringent rules put strain on smallholders
World shopper demand for tea is rising immensely, as a lot as 5 p.c a 12 months, partly due to development in per capita revenue in China, India and different rising economies. This has led to important will increase in manufacturing, exports and consumption, and pushed market costs to file highs. Nevertheless, in parallel, issues have emerged. 

Tea-producing international locations have discovered it difficult to adjust to stringent rules that restrict how a lot of a chemical can stay on the harvested tea leaves. Whereas importing international locations have set these “most residue ranges” (MRLs) as meals security requirements, they’re usually set with out full understanding of the particular hazard they could current to shoppers, and complying with them is especially problematic for smallholders. 

Smallholders have a tendency to make use of cheaper chemical substances, which often means they’re older manufacturers, whereas in lots of circumstances producers haven’t up to date their pointers on tips on how to adjust to fashionable security requirements. Thus, importing international locations have estimated residue limits on their very own, usually setting them a lot decrease than really wanted for security – limits that make it tough for smallholder growers to conform. Additionally, with importing international locations setting their very own MRL requirements, exporting producers should present paperwork proving their compliance for every particular person vacation spot. Even growers who don’t have any pest issues, and thus use no chemical substances, nonetheless should undergo the time and expense of offering paperwork that proves their compliance. 

Harmonizing requirements to assist smallholders
Because the variety of smallholder tea producers continued to extend in parallel to the introduction of security requirements, these points turned extra problematic for the tea trade. In 2001, the FAO Intergovernmental Group (IGG) on Tea, a subsidiary physique of the Committee on Commodity Issues (CCP), determined to hunt options, establishing an initiative to prioritize shut cooperation between tea producers, importers, merchants, boards, associations and different organizations. By way of its working group on MRLs, IGG on Tea coordinated actions with the Codex Alimentarius Fee and different standard-setting our bodies to work towards harmonizing requirements amongst tea-importing international locations. Over the next decade, the IGG on Tea introduced producers and importers collectively to sensitize them to one another’s points, harmonize the residue limits for a variety of pesticides in key importing international locations, and strengthen networks linking regulatory authorities and the tea commerce. 

Along with the working group on MRLs, the IGG on Tea has different working teams that take care of problems with nice significance to each smallholders and industrial growers, starting from necessities of natural tea manufacturing to positioning the tea trade to take care of modifications in rising circumstances introduced on by local weather change.

Total, the work of FAO’s IGG on Tea in harmonizing the utmost residue ranges has addressed and met the protection considerations of shoppers however on the identical time has diminished the price of compliance to the protection requirements. That is particularly important, from a meals safety angle, in main tea-exporting international locations reminiscent of Sri Lanka and Kenya. Each have US$1 billion annual food-import prices, however in each international locations these prices are completely offset by their export earnings from tea.


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