Tata Agrees to Eco-Friendly Plant Protection

Tata Global Beverages (TGB), the second largest tea company in the world, announced last week that it will comply with Greenpeace recommendations to no longer use chemical pesticides on tea grown in India.

TWTN141006_ART_TetleyNonPesticides_IcedTeaBlendhe company, which markets several teas in North America, including Tetley, the number two brand by volume, announced its Project Sustainable Plant Protection Formulations (S-PPFs) will rely on eco-friendly bio-pesticides, biological agents such as aphid-eating lady bugs and include horticultural practices such as tillage to fight weeds.

The company joins Unilever and Girnar Tea in pledging to use non-pesticide management, sometimes known as integrated pest management as an alternative to synthetic pesticides.

Activists in India scaled billboards calling for Clean Chai Now which attracted significant media coverage following an Aug. 13 report by Greenpeace documenting the presence of 34 pesticides in 46 brands of tea.

“The report reveals the systematic presence of mixtures of multiple pesticides, many classified as highly or moderately hazardous by the World Health Organisation (WHO), in tea grown and sold in India as well as exported abroad by leading international and national brands such as Tetley, Lipton and Twinings. These brands belong to companies like Tata Global Beverages, Hindustan Unilever and Twinings, among others, according to Melissa Shinn, senior ecological farming campaigner at Greenpeace International.

TGB maintains the tea it sells meets all Indian food safety requirements.

Plant protection products are currently in limited use. Tata said its S-PPF Non-Pesticide Management Project (NPM) “is a collaborative effort between Tata Group companies – Tata Global Beverages, Rallis and Tata Chemicals.”

“Field trials on Plant Protection Formulations from plant extracts were initiated in 2013. Hathikuli estate of APPL, an associate company of TGB, has been producing organic certified tea for the past three years. The learning from these initiatives has been consolidated, and Project S-PPF will evaluate and enhance this learning further,” according to a Tata release.

AWTN141006_ART_TetleyNonPesticides_British-Blenddditional field trials and area based pilot projects will be initiated at TGB associate plantation companies in North India (APPL) and South India (KDHP), according to the company.

The announcement follows a widely publicized Greenpeace petition.

Greenpeace’s Shinn posted on the non-profit’s blog that “TGB, and the owner of the Lipton brand, Hindustan Unilever are together estimated to hold more than half the total Indian tea market – so they can really make things happen, fast! What’s more, the Tata group not only packs a huge commercial punch (read: annual turnover of $1.5 billion), its beverages company, TGB is in fact the second largest tea company in the world, with 65% of its revenue from international markets. So, by collaborating and sharing the know-how from their ecological tea field trials Tata and Unilever could make a massive difference to the cultivation of tea overall.”

Founded 178 years ago as Joseph Tetley & Co., the firm has extensive holdings in India and Africa. In announcing its decision, “TGB seeks to benefit the entire tea industry through dissemination of scientific and technical knowledge about a NPM approach for tea crop production. The project also has the potential to be expanded and deployed for other crops, according to the company.

TGB said it will promote “behavioral changes in tea producers towards rejuvenation of eco-system including soil health, crop protection, bio-diversity etc. TGB will work with Tea Board, tea industry and independent expert to evaluate the findings and develop an appropriate road map.”

Source: Greenpeace report Trouble Brewing, Tata Global Beverages and Eco Watch