The Home Ministry has alleged that Greenpeace is trying to hurt the Indian tea industry, which employs 35 lakh workers and earned USD 644 million from exports last year, by projecting abroad that homegrown leaves of the beverage have hazardous pesticides.
According to a report prepared by the Home Ministry on the activities of Greenpeace India, the NGO has published a research paper titled 'Trouble Brewing on Indian Tea' where it has claimed that the beverage has hazardous pesticides.
"It (Greenpeace) claims to have identified hazardous pesticides in leading Indian tea brands, all of which are exported in large quantities to the US, UK and Europe," the report said.
The Greenpeace has not released the forensic analysis, which intelligence sources believe, was done at a private laboratory in some country in Europe, the Home Ministry said.
"The Tea Board of India has disagreed with the above findings and sees it as an attempt to impact Indian tea exports. The anti-tea Greenpeace campaign is similar to the one against Chinese tea companies.
"In April 2012, Greenpeace had published a similar questionable report 'Hidden Ingredients in Chinese Tea' which had claimed to have found 29 different pesticides in 18 tea samples. It has also decided to target other commonly consumed goods such as rice, wheat etc. And highlight the abuse of pesticides in these sectors," the Home Ministry report said.
India is one of the world's leading producers of tea. The tea produced in the country is considered among the finest in the world. The main tea growing regions are the northeast, including Assam, the Darjeeling district and the Dooars region of North Bengal, and the Nilgiris in South India.
Tea industry is also India's second-largest employer with over 35 lakh workers employed in over 1,500 tea estates. A total of 1,185 million kgs of tea were produced in India in 2014.
India exported tea to different countries valued overall at around USD 643.75 million in 2014. Russia, the US, the UK, the UAE, Iran, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Germany, Australia, Japan, the Netherlands, Ireland and Poland are some of the major global markets for exports of Indian tea.
Accusing the Greenpeace of trying to prejudicially affecting India's public and economic interests, the Home Ministry has already barred the NGO from receiving foreign funds by suspending its licence for six months and froze all its accounts.
Greenpeace India has said it will not be "cowed" down by a "campaign against dissent" and is seeking legal counsel in the matter.
It termed the government action as a "smear" campaign and vowed to continue work towards clean air, water and inclusive development in India.