Tea has recently become a second strategic commodity next to water, and it has a high economic value. To ensure that the tea consumed has met international standards, a number of international institutions, like the Rainforest Alliance or UTZ certificate and National Reference Group have actively performed tea certification in Indonesia since 2008. these institutions have specifically targeted export-oriented tea producers. While their standards are relating to economic, social, and environmental issues.
Tea certification has become a global trend and requirement. It means that if a tea product is expected to become acceptable in international market, all world’s tea producers are forced to meet consumers’ requirement. The Indonesian Tea Board (DRI) jointly with the National Reference Group have launched a national tea certification called Sertifikat The Lestari (Suistainable Certificate).
Chairman of Industrial Division of Indonesian Tea Board, Rachmat Gunadi, said that the certificate is aimed at standardizing domestic tea, which in the end will enhance competitiveness in international market. The main target of the certification program is small farmers. So far, tea in farmers’ plantations has had diverse qualities. As a result of this, tea produced by farmers is uncompetitive in the export market.
Rachmat is confidence that with the certification program, quality of farmers’ tea will improve as farmers receive training and accompaniment about planting and harvesting techniques so that the tea produced by farmers will be more competitive in the domestic as well as export markets. Farmers’ welfare will probably improve.
The certification program is still a pilot project which has recently been applied in four regencies, namely Batang Regency (Central Java) , Cianjur Regency (West Java). The Indonesian Tea Board not yet decided about the cost for obtaining the Lestari certification as it is still under research stage. “but, we estimated that the cost will not be more than Rp.15 millions’, he said.
Concerning low price of Indonesian tea, Rachmat explained that low price of tea produced by farmers is related to un optimal quality if tea products as the harvesting system is nit in accordance with standards. The ideal harvesting standard is three-leaf plucking, but the pickers averagely pluck up to six buds, so that the quality drops.
Due to the low quality, price of Indonesian tea in the export market is also low or around USD 1.7 per kg of dry leaf if compared to average price of tea of other countries, such as India, China, and Vietnam which reaches USD2 per dry leaf. Therefore, the Indonesian Tea Board is now attempting to implement plantation certification programs in accordance with standards required by export market so that price of Indonesian tea could increase. (E)