TEAM UP India: develop a joint roadmap for sustainable tea

Healthy workers, better opportunities for women, improved smallholder livelihoods and better environmental performance are key elements discussed at TEAM UP India.

The Indian Tea Association (ITA), the Tea Research Association (TRA), the Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP), and IDH hosted the largest gathering ever of Indian tea producers and packers, international tea packing companies, and development organisations to discuss the critical issues facing the Indian tea sector. Jordy van Honk, senior program manager tea at IDH: ‘The most important result of TEAM UP India is that we have a general agreement that we can only solve the issues threatening the Indian tea sector if we all work together’.

The Indian tea sector is the second largest tea market after China, with over 80% of tea produced is for the local market. Like many tea growing areas India faces challenges of prices not keeping pace with increases in costs.

And there are long standing problems that require a huge amount of change, like changing labour patterns and the need to provide services such as housing and sanitation for continually increasing estate communities.

The results of climate change impact modelling for Assam was presented which predicts that, over the next 50 years, many areas of current production will become less suitable for tea due to changes in temperature and precipitation patterns. These changes are also likely to trigger increased or new incidents of pests and disease, an issue which is already very challenging for tea producers.

Open discussions

Everyone at TEAM UP India welcomed the opportunity to have an open discussion about the current state of the Indian tea sector and what needs to change for Indian tea to remain a viable and sustainable option for both the domestic and export markets.

A range of programs were highlighted including:

  • Improve plant protection and sustainable agriculture
  • Develop the capabilities of smallholder farmers
  • Partnerships to address health and social issues in estates, such as the UNICEF-ETP-ABITA partnership to improve the lives of young women in tea communities
  • Verification and certification standards such as Trustea, Rainforest Alliance, Fairtrade and Utz
  • Climate research and experience of successful adaptation programs
  • Enhance consumption of tea and remunerative prices.

Best practices from other countries

Producers from countries with similar challenges, such as Sri Lanka, shared successful approaches such as the Plantation Community Empowerment Program, which helped reform worker-management relationships, improve productivity and career opportunities for women and reduce social problems on estates. Overall participating estates saw a 25% improvement in productivity and $26 return on every dollar invested.

A joint roadmap

TEAM UP India took the opportunity to bring together the expertise of the tea value chain and its partners and start developing a draft roadmap that integrates the different approaches needed to achieve a thriving and sustainable Indian tea industry with:

  • Profitable businesses fit for a 21st century market
  • A healthy, motivated, and productive workforce, with greater opportunities for women
  • Improved lives and livelihoods for smallholder farmers and their workers
  • More sustainable energy use and an improved environment in tea-growing areas

A number of speakers highlighted how this roadmap would fit with the UN Sustainable Development Goals which all governments are reporting on and enable the industry to demonstrate how it is contributing to their achievement in tea-growing regions.

The meeting organisers, Indian Tea Association, Ethical Tea Partnership, Tea Research Association and Sustainable Trade Initiative will develop the roadmap based on all discussions at TEAM UP.

TEAM UP London – June 2016

An Indian Sustainable Tea Industry Working Group will be established to co-ordinate its further development and implementation. The group’s plans will be shared at TEAM UP London (June 2016), the largest conference on tea and sustainability in the world.