The Indian Tea Association (ITA) has proposed that the Tea Board of India (TBI) promote black tea as a health drink, which can enhance Covid-19 immunity due to its high ‘theaflavin’ content. ITA secretary Sujit Patra, in a plea to the TBI today, pointed out to promotion of tea as a health beverage in relation with an initiative taken by Sri Lanka.

According to Mr Patra, Sri Lanka has initiated an advertisement campaign, claiming that ‘Ceylon Black Tea’ enhances Covid immunity due to its rich theaflavin content. It may be noted that a few weeks ago, the Tea Research Association (TRA) established that black tea processed from fine leaf of this region contained higher levels of theaflavin, which boosts immunity power in the human body.

Planters as well as tea garden owners, who have been demanding that governments should exempt tea plantations from the lockdown, circulated the results of the research conducted by scientists at the TRA. However, significantly, they were reportedly upset about the way Sri Lanka started campaigning about the ‘Ceylon Black Tea’ helping immunity.

“The same holds for Indian black tea. There are many scientific papers suggesting this. But our Tea Board and the tea industry are quite impotent,” said an owner of the Tea Estate in Assam. The TRA has released a scientific paper on Black Tea Theaflavin as Corona virus inhibitor on 13 March. “Drinking black tea is super beneficial for Corona Virus protection,” it quoted TRA Tocklai scientist Dr Pritom Choudhury as quoting after his work on Theaflavin as a Hepatitis C virus inhibitor.

In response to a letter issued by the TBI on 8 April in connection with Covid, the ITA today informed the Deputy Chairman of the TBI, AK Ray, to take action for smooth functioning of tea exports post- Covid-19. According to the ITA, exporters are receiving queries from India’s key markets like Iran, Russia and UAE, but that there is uncertainty in the movement of tea to the warehouse, port, blending, packing and other jobs.

“There is thus a risk of losing business to competing countries,” the letter said, adding, “Premium tea, including the Darjeeling first flush, is warehoused and waiting for shipment. Singapore and Colombo ports are operating. Buyers are repeatedly enquiring about the shipment status. Exporters are not sure about the timeline for the Kolkata port to become operational.”

The ITA secretary has also appealed to open auctions and warehouses. On the other hand, since the state government has allowed planters to use 15 percent of the total workforce, most of the gardens started skiffing work today. “Need to know about the date of plucking of green leaves and manufacturing, otherwise this may be an added expenditure if we have to skiff again during the first week of May,” a senior Jalpaiguri-based planter said.

The president of the Confederation of Indian Small Tea Growers Association (CISTA), Bijoy Gopal Chakraborty, today urged Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to allow manufacturing tea in BLF (Bought Leaf Factories) so that thousands of small tea growers in North Dinajpur, Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri and adjoining areas can start plucking leaves and earn their livelihood.

However, garden owners in the organised sector alleged that a group of BLF owners have started manufacturing tea in Jalpaiguri by violating the order of both the Centre and the state government.