Tea farmers and entrepreneurs sceptical about trademark implementationStakeholders highlight the system of getting organic tea certified, which costs more than Rs 500,000, as a major obstacle to widespread adoption of the new brand.
Radha Rai, a tea entrepreneur from Suryodaya Municipality, Buddha Dham, was happy to see Nepali orthodox teas receive a trademark on Tuesday. However, despite receiving the certificate from the Ministry for Agriculture and Livestock Development, Rai is doubtful about how this new development will be followed through.
Rai, who operates Green and Speciality Tea Industry, supplies her produce to the domestic and international market. And while she acknowledges the trademark is a welcome move that will help Nepali orthodox tea establish itself more firmly in the international market, there are a lot of questions in her mind about the hassles and costly organic certification that one has to go through to get the trademark.
Not only Rai, all the 12 people who got the certificate also have similar questions. A major one being: what type of policies will the government bring with the implementation of the trademark to facilitate tea exports in the international market?
On Tuesday, Minister for Agriculture and Livestock Development Ghanashyam Bhushal announced the formal implementation of the trademark by providing trademarks to 12 entrepreneurs during a programme organised in Fikkal of Suryodaya Municipality, Ilam. Nepal's orthodox tea received its trademark after 157 years after the country started growing it.
But the effective implementation of the logo does not seem to be an easy task, because of the provisions and costly system that have to be fulfilled to get the trademark, say tea entrepreneurs and farmers.
"It will take investment and hard work for tea farmers and entrepreneurs to get their tea trademarked," said Rabin Rai, secretary of the Central Tea Cooperatives Association.
In order to obtain a trademark, tea must be certified organic in full compliance with the code of conduct. But tea farmers and entrepreneurs have to spend more than Rs500,000 annually to get the organic certificate, which is a hefty amount for farmers. Similarly, many of the farmers who get the logo now have not clearly understood the importance of it, which could pose problems.
Farmers, who have not been able to feel much relief from the policies introduced to make the National Tea and Coffee Development Board effective, do not seem to be very confident with the Board’s work this time as well.
There is no clear coordination among the government bodies for the implementation of the trademark, say farmers. Stating that there are many errors in the process of implementation of the logo, Rana Bahadur Rai, mayor of Suryodaya Municipality, has requested the tea board to make amendments within six months and come up with prohibitions that reflect the realities of tea-producing farmers and labourers. The government support is a must for every process to meet the standards for quality including the speciality of tea produced in the hills, he said.
However, stakeholders suggest that the trademark implementation should be given high priority to increase the export of orthodox tea, which has a market share of only 10 percent in the western market. Out of which, 6 million kg of ready-made orthodox tea is produced in the hilly areas including Ilam. Bishnu Bhattarai, executive director of the tea board, said they are trying to make enough from the given chance.
Stakeholders, who have been actively lobbying for years on the tea trademark, said that this is the right way to make a good profit from tea benefiting the tea stakeholders and the nation. A right track has been opened to make Nepali tea competitive in the international market, said Udaye Chapagain, a tea entrepreneur. But if the given achievement is politicised then not only will the people dependent on tea lose out on an opportunity to tap into the international market but so will the nation, he added.
While inaugurating the trademark logo, titled 'Nepal Quality from the Himalayas', Minister Bhushal also directed the tea board to simplify the costly organic certification process by revising age-old, impractical tea policies.
Nepali orthodox tea has been gaining popularity in the international market because of its quality, aroma, taste and aftertaste. Nepal produces around 6,097 tonnes of orthodox tea annually in the hills. It also produces 19,108 tonnes of crush-tear-curl (CTC) tea, known for its strong and bright appearance, in the lowlands of the Tarai.