26 September 2014

Pesticide Documentation in Tea estates © Vivek M. / Greenpeace


Dear chai freaks and fiends,
If you are an Indian, and a chai freak, you'll be thrilled to know that Wagh Bakri, the third largest tea marketing company in India has finally risen to #cleanchai.

How did this happen? A few meetings, exchanges of emails and phone calls and 40,000 of you tea lovers made it happen. Following the launch of the report "Tea Brewing – Pesticides in Tea Samples from India" earlier on in August, and all of you tea lovers wrote to your favourite brands asking them to clean chai, your favourite drink, India's favourite drink.

Wagh Bakri heeded to its consumers, and did the right thing. They called a few of us from Greenpeace to talk about what is the best way to work towards achieving this. This resulted in Greenpeace, which represented your voice, in going down to their office at Ahmedabad last week, and discussing their plans. It didn't take long to realise that their heart was in the right place, and they were willing to take all the necessary steps to work towards achieving this.

A few days later, we got an email confirming this. That's the commitment you've earned from the company.

So what does this mean? The company has committed to invest in scientific research pilots (trial plots), which will explore ways in which to move away from the dependence on the use of pesticides in tea cultivation. The idea is not to drop some nasties, but pesticides from tea cultivation altogether.

While the company does not own tea plantations itself, it will identify and work with tea growers to do this research. And they have plans to work with independent scientists to ensure it is scientific and credible, and ultimately can be replicated on a large scale. By the end of this research, both the company and the industry will gain from this research so that the industry is able to chart out a path to eliminate the use of pesticides in tea.

So what next? Let's take a pause and thank Wagh Bakri for doing the right thing.
We are of course placing trust that the company will walk the talk and keep true to its commitment. As one of the largest tea marketing companies in country, and one of the bigger exporters, this sends cues to a number of tea companies who need to now do their bit. Twinings, Goodricke, Golden Tips and Kho Cha, hope you are listening.

Signing off for now,
Tea fiend

P.S. After Unilever and Girnar, Wagh Bakri is the third to take this progressive step.
P.P.S. In the meanwhile, we met with Tata Global Beverages Limited, and they sat across the table and promised us to do what it takes to #CleanChai. Tata, the whole nation is counting on you.

Click here to ask for clean chai!

Shivani Shah is a campaigner with Greenpeace India.