Tea Board cracks whip on contaminated tea exports

The Sri Lanka Tea Board has sent out an "advisory circular" on the quality of made tea to all registered manufacturers of tea saying that the Tea Board will "closely monitor" all tea presented for sale at the Colombo Tea Auctions under powers vested in it by law in order to ensure that quality standards expected by importing countries are met.

This is a direct reaction to the recent discovery of a khapra beetle in a tea shipment to Russia which resulted in an import ban being slapped on Ceylon tea into one of its biggest markets and concerns expressed by Japan about chemical residues in tea exports from this country.

The circular signed by Tea Commissioner Jayantha Edirisinghe laid down Maximum (chemical) Residue Limits (MRLs) that Hexaconazole residue will be limited to not more that 0.01 parts per million by weight.

It said that the Tea Research Institute has advised that this chemical should only be applied in nurseries and immature/pruned fields and not in plucking fields. The authorities said that in this regard, if residues of Hexaconazole are detected in made tea in excess of the specified limit, "the tea will be treated as contaminated."

A limit of not more than 0.05 parts per million for MCPA has also been laid.

"Manufacturers are also warned to exercise strict monitoring and control of their supply chain to ensure that only substances approved by the TRI are used, and even then in accordance with the respective guidelines, at every stage of the growing and manufacturing process," the circular said.

It further warned that the Sri Lanka Tea Board "will be taking action against any manufacturer whose tea is found to contain extraneous matter." Sacks of tea from lots catalogued for auction will be cleaned under the supervision of the Tea Board and the relevant broker and brokers will be informed on a weekly basis of non-compliance and any extraneous matter detected, the circular said.

It specified that where extraneous matter is detected, all tea presented for auction by the concerned manufacturer will be removed from the catalogue and the manufacturer prohibited from presenting tea for auction until the Tea Commissioner is satisfied that the deficiencies in the manufacturing process of the factory have been satisfactorily addressed.

"Manufacturers are advised that no further warning will be issued in these respects," the Tea Commissioner said.

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