After Darjeeling Tea’s achievement as the first Indian product to obtain a GI tag in 2004, there is speculation that Sikkim’s Temi Tea is being considered for the same. Known for its lingering, floral aroma, Sikkim Temi tea has gained popularity in recent times because of the high demand for organic products around the world. Additionally, Temi Tea Estate’s switch to LPG and biogas for drying the tea leaves marks itself as a product that takes into account concern for the environment.
A Geographical Indication (GI) tag is a sign used on products that are unique to locations and have features that indicate to the same. Simply put, it is an indicator of a particular region’s unique physical goods.
Unlike the ‘trademark’ type of intellectual property, GI tag belongs to a community, not an individual or organisation. They have similar rights and are protected by the laws set in the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act of 1999 (enforced in 2003). Supplying fake goods under the GI tag of the registered products is a punishable offence.
The specificity of the product creates an exotic image of it in international markets, whereby tea connoisseurs go to great lengths to acquire it via auctions or by personal visits to the tea estates. If Temi Tea does register for a GI tag, there would be more attention on both the product and state since only four varieties of tea from India have made it to the list. By default, it would have the privilege of being another singular product that is synonymous with Sikkim.
Therefore, not only does acquiring a GI tag mean a boost in export and economic growth, but it promotes the region as a whole. Additionally, the uniqueness and distinctive features of both the location and its produce also help to curb the trade of fake goods. Often, fake produce is mixed with high-quality products and results in the farmers bearing the brunt of low profit.
Another understated benefit of a GI tag is that it paves the way to create products that facilitate sustainable development through local employment and conservation of natural resources.
Currently, Sikkim’s sole agricultural product that has obtained a GI tag is the large cardamom, an important cash crop. Although production itself has slowed down over the years due to issues of irrigation and lack of workers, Sikkim is still the largest contributor of this spice in India.
“Farmers aren’t quite interested in growing cardamom saplings lately. Excluding taxes, the price for a kilo was around Rs. 660/- in May, but in June it dropped to Ra. 590/- per kilo”, says Durga Chettri, Marketing Executive at NERAMAC.
During an auction last November, the highest price paid for a kilo was Rs.1700/-.