Ceylon Tea battle toxicity claims

Thursday, 25 January 2018 00:12 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


Sri Lanka’s tea industry continues to be caught between a rock and a hard place as it attempts to deal with the fallout of the Glyphosate ban, with an estimated 5%-7% loss in production and about Rs. 15 billion revenue loss, officials said yesterday. 

Sri Lanka Tea Board Chairman Rohan Pethiyagoda noted that due to the Glyphosate ban, the industry had resorted to using alternatives that could be considered as higher in toxicity by importing countries. 

In the absence of Glyphosate weedicide, tea plantations turned to an alternative weedicide named MCPA. This weedicide is considered to be far more harmful to human health and Japanese authorities placed the maximum residue levels of MCPA acceptable in made tea at 0.01ppm. 

Unfortunately, most of the teas produced in Sri Lanka, except for a few plantations, produce teas which have MCPA residue levels in made tea far in excess of the limits placed by Japan. In fact, a majority of teas produced in Sri Lanka do not meet the minimum residue levels (MRL) for MCPA set by European countries, which is at 0.05ppm.

“Unfortunately changing to a different weedicide is not a simple matter, as they have to be approved by the destination countries, sometimes years in advance. This is a very serious situation and directly the result of unconventional and irregular decision making,” Pethiyagoda added. 

An independent international laboratory has found unusually high chemical residues in Sri Lankan tea. The report was conveyed to the Government on 21 January.

The tests were commissioned by the Sri Lanka Tea Board after it had ‘mentions; from various importers in Europe and Japan of chemical residues above acceptable levels.  The report was produced by an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Good Laboratory Practices certified lab. 

Plantation Industries Minister Navin Dissanayake said he had already had high-level discussions with Japanese officials and was hopeful of positive engagement on the issue in the future.