India’s tea agency seeks traceability system tenders

Tea Board India is seeking tenders from companies who can provide a traceability system to protect the supply chain from tea growers to manufacturers and suppliers.

The agency wants a system – perhaps powered by blockchain – that can help guard against adulteration of tea and allow tea to be traced back through the supply chain to the producer in the event of a quality problem.

Tea Board India, which was established in the 1950s by the Indian government to promote domestic tea production and exports, says the industry at the moment is facing serious challenges from oversupply in the market, quality concerns, low prices that are hitting small growers hard, and reduced global demand.

The challenge laid out in the tender (PDF) is to design, develop and commission an end-to-end traceability system that includes mobile functionality and will create “a ring fenced electronic environment capturing the entire details of supply chain from procurement of raw materials by the manufacturers to the disposal of made teas to the primary buyers through auction.”

It also wants consumers to be able to use the platform to see the provenance of the tea they have purchased, particularly for teas with specific geographic indications (GI) such as Darjeeling, Assam, Nilgiri and Kangra. Globally, India is currently the second largest producer of tea behind China, as well as the largest exporter.

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“The integrated system shall create a transparent and free market structure to ensure level playing field for all stakeholders in the Indian tea market,” says the tender document, which says it wants it to provide “tamper-proof and auditable data to Tea Board pertaining to supply, demand and consumption of tea within India and abroad.”

Bidders should have at least five years of experience in management consultancy services and will have implemented similar projects at scale in the past.

Earlier this month, the Tea Board said it was planning to take legal action against bad actors in the supply chain who are suspected of adding colourants to tea, contravening Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) regulations.

The board made the announcement after revealing it had discovered a factory in Assam that was adding tartrazine – a synthetic yellow dye – to tea leaves in order to imply higher quality, and was planning to revoke it license. There is also evidence of other colourants including Bismarck brown, potassium blue, turmeric, indigo, and plumbago being used for similar reasons, says (PDF) the board.

One way to test for adulteration is to place leaves in cold water – if a colour is quickly released, chances are a dye has been added.

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