assam_tea-gardens_blog

Today the BBC have released a report raising concerns on conditions in a number of tea gardens in Assam.

We welcome this report and appreciate the importance of this kind of investigation. Tea industry workers, their welfare and their treatment concerns us directly. We consider that the BBC’s findings will provide additional impetus to improve working and living conditions for those whose livelihood depends on the tea industry, particularly in Assam.

We form part of the Ethical Tea Partnership and work with them closely. Our ethical sourcing process covers both internal and external audits. We follow Ethical Trade Initiative principles; we work together with The Ethical Tea Partnership to ensure appropriate auditing of tea gardens.

The Ethical Tea Partnership is a membership organisation of 40 international tea companies. Its members collaborate to make a positive difference in tea growing regions, striving to improve the lives and livelihoods of people who produce tea. JING fully supports its work and remains committed to its aims. The issues the report highlights underscore why such an organisation exists and is needed.

The ETP have a clear focus on Assam as a region and are taking many positive steps to improve the lives of workers on tea estates. Some of these are:

IMPROVING SANITATION:
Sanitation in India is a major challenge. 75% of surface water in India is contaminated by sewage and almost half the Indian population don’t have access to a toilet. There is increasing investment by tea producers but there remains much more to be done.

TRAINING & SUPPORT TO IMPROVE STANDARDS:
Agrochemical management is particularly resistant to change; poor practice remains deeply embedded. The issue accordingly receives continued ETP focus.

ELIMINATING CHILD LABOUR & EXPLOITATION:
41% of Indian children fail to complete 8 years of education. ETP have entered into a major partnership with UNICEF in Assam, working with 350 communities linked to more than 100 tea estates, aiming to offer young people a brighter future.

IMPROVING WAGES & BENEFITS:
ETP and Oxfam are educating organisations to raise understanding about wages, benefits and basic needs, and address concerns about wages and benefits in the tea industry.

We are mindful of potential issues within Assam as we are with all tea origins from which we source. We do not buy from any gardens highlighted as substandard by the BBC as at the date of this release. If any tea gardens that we do work with fall below ETP standards, then we will cease our relationship until appropriate improved working and living conditions are
confirmed.

We firmly believe that Assam is one of the world’s great teas. The solution to the issues raised by the BBC report will be achieved through collaboration and cooperation via industry bodies. These bodies include the ETP, other charities and Indian bodies, such as Trustea, who aim to ensure that value is shared for everyone at each stage of tea production.

Find out more about the Ethical Tea Partnership