Tea as a commodity has been consumed for ages but it has rarely been flavored with quality. Quality as a component so far is a discounted commodity in the brew. For quality to be the determining ingredient of the tea business the paradigm of tea business needs to change from a cost-plus model to a quality model that should determine the price of the tea.
Once quality becomes the reference point the global market opens up in a big way. Prabhat Bezbaroah, Chairman Tea Board of India is of the view when we talk of quality, it can become part of the agenda only when we catch the aficionados young and give them the satisfying experience of having tea based on their preferences rather than providing them an existing bouquet and ask them to choose from it.
Mokrang, Batunga and Halmari varieties of tea are such kinds of teas that have the potential to change the notions associated with the tea industry, opined Bezbaroah. Companies need to be allowed to grow according to their choice, they need to be encouraged to experiment, and quality should determine and help shape the tea industry.
This can be facilitated if the technology is infused in increasing propositions in the tea industry, more so in the manufacturing process. Quality can become the talk of the industry when the online selling platforms are integrated into the value chain as a new vector. Darjeeling tea for example which has a GI tag is still not available on the popular selling platforms like Amazon and Flipkart which are the platforms of choice for ordering household items.
The industry needs to think about how to integrate these platforms as a new outlet for marketing their quality products. Quality as a matter of fact can become the sine qua non for the tea industry if the industry plans to initiate the drinkers into tea drinking. The Harvard Business Case study is a potent reference point to be adopted in India for the tea industry. According to this case study, in Japan coffee became the preferred brew for the youngsters when they started catching them young and it took 10 years for the transformation to make its presence felt.
Technology would be the determining factor for quality. TragNext FLC technology introduced by AgNext has the potential to usher the path to quality as opined by Mr. Joydeep Phukan. Using AI and Image Recognition Software, TragNext facilitates in identifying leaves from various classes coming from garden harvest as leaves, buds, Banjhi, shoots, and the rest. In the post-processed inverted binarised image, each component is identified and extracted separately, and then the images are processed for FLC as per industry standards. It will help in a big way in the estimation of inbound quality in the tea industry.
Stabilisation of technology would take time and the industry has to assimilate it. Another technology that can usher in the path towards Quality is through E Spray. Punjab Agriculture University has demonstrated that E Spray cuts down the consumption of pesticides by 30% as the E Spray has a 360-degree outreach, has a wider coverage and lesser consumption so the incidence of pesticide- a quality issue is addressed as well.
Digitization is the need of the hour and by digitising the processes, farmers will be able to get a fair price for their produce, buyers can be assured of optimal procuring decisions and consumers will enjoy the benefits of quality and traceability.
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