KOCHI: Following unconfirmed reports of pesticide residue detected in tea, the United Planters’ Association of Southern India (UPASI) research foundation which looked into the issue has termed it patently absurd. With 80 per cent of the tea getting exported, UPASI it is well-nigh impossible to find pesticide residue in tea.
“Tea reaches its packed state only after undergoing so many processes and not in the raw stage. These include withering, rolling, drying and fermentation. Once the final product is ready, the consumers again boil it to 100 degrees. So even if some pesticide remnants are there in the tea, they will indeed be eliminated at this stage. Most importantly, the pesticide residue level in tea here is 10 per cent lower than the allowed European Union(EU)-mandated standards which is considered the best in the sector,” said B Radhakrishnan, director, UPASI Tea Research Foundation.
The Plant Protection Code (PPC) - issued by the Tea board of India as a comprehensive guideline to achieve sustainability through good agricultural practices (GAP), including the integrated pest management, to gradually reduce the dependence on chemicals - has done yeomen service in helping the estates here to turn ‘organic’ to a great extent.
UPASI also does research on alternative pest control methods. Among them is the patented ‘yellow trap’. The yellow trap has different substances in them which will attract the pests. From the colours to different substances, a lot of research has gone into setting up this pest repellent.
“We are actually trying to get rid of as many pesticides as possible. In the near future, we may not even need the current amount of allowed pesticides. We are also experimenting with natural extracts to keep away bugs and soon will be able to do 100 per cent bio pest control,” said Mahendran, research scientist, UPASI.
UPASI has been conducting research on tea for over 90 years. Every batch of tea from the estates in South India goes through UPASI's scrutiny before it goes for auction or export.
" There are stringent Fssai rules which we adhere to and then there is the Minimum Residue Level (MRL) stipulated by the government and also the MRL of all the countries where the tea is exported. The estates get random visits from these bodies and also undergo regular inspections," said Radhakrishnan.