Transforming tea production among smallholders in India

A wide array of partners, including HUL, Tata Global Beverages and the Tea Board of India, have joined forces to drive large-scale change in the Indian tea industry – inspiring thousands of farmers and plantation workers to move towards sustainability. The gains they are set to enjoy include better profits and improved access to global markets.

Trustea – the India Sustainable Tea Programme – was launched on 11 July 2013. The programme seeks to ensure that around 500,000 tonnes of Indian tea is in future harvested from sustainably grown sources, combining an understanding of farming practices in India with global best practices.

The programme is building capacity in the tea sector while verifying the overall sustainability of working methods. The target is to reach more than 600 factories and is improving the livelihoods of 40,000 smallholders – more than half of whom are women. At the same, it is securing a supply of sustainably sourced tea for Unilever’s business in India.

The programme is championed by the Tea Board of India, funded by Hindustan Unilever Limited, IDH and Tata Global Beverages and is being implemented by Solidaridad and the Ethical Tea Partnership, two organisations that promote fair and equitable trading. The Rainforest Alliance is also on board as a technical adviser.

India has a relatively traditional tea industry, and this pioneering initiative involves large-scale changes. But the gains will be significant. Compliance with the code will not only improve the competitiveness of the tea farms involved but will also enable them to gradually achieve compliance with national regulations and international sustainability standards.

Smallholders are at the heart of the initiative. Unfortunately, many smallholders do not always use fertiliser and pesticide in an environmentally sustainable way. Trustea works with smallholders, self-help groups and societies to bring about environmental protection, improve livelihoods and ensure long-term sustainability in the industry. For Trustea itself, there is the further goal of improving the image of Indian tea globally.