2008 was good for Indian tea, with exports rising

December 31st, 2008 - 11:11 am ICT by IANS  

Guwahati, Dec 31 (IANS) The beleaguered Indian tea industry is on a comeback trail after nearly a decade-long recession with exports increasing and prices firming up in the weekly auctions, officials here said Wednesday. “The year 2008 was pretty encouraging for the Indian tea industry with exports increasing by 20 million kilogrammes from 2007 to 200 million kilogrammes,” Dhiraj Kakaty, secretary of the Assam chapter of the Indian Tea Association (ITA), told IANS.

India is the world’s largest tea producer after China and produced a record crop of 962 million kilogrammes in 2008 compared to 945 million kilogrammes the previous year. The northeastern state of Assam accounted for 55 percent of the total output.

“We are fetching good average prices in the weekly auctions with a kilogramme of tea sold at Rs.90, which is about Rs.22 higher then what we got in 2007.

“The overall mood is vibrant with the Indian tea industry now beginning to look up after a long recession. Overseas demand is on the increase and prices are also firming up mainly due to very good quality teas produced by us, besides shortage of teas in the world market,” Kakaty said.

Pakistan, Egypt, Iran and Iraq and countries in the Middle East figured prominently in the export list. Besides these countries, Kenya has been buying from India to meet its export obligations, while Pakistan has also begun to buy some quantities to meet the shortage arising out of Kenyan production troubles.

The healthy trend would continue with exports expected to further rise in 2009 as there is a global shortfall in tea production, Kakaty said.

India’s $1.5 billion tea industry has been in a slump since 1998, with prices and exports plummeting because of weak domestic demand and increased international competition, coupled with poor quality teas produced in the country. But now the markets are expected to remain strong, both in terms of exports and prices.

The slump in prices and exports was largely attributed to cheap and inferior quality teas produced by many new tea-growing countries like Vietnam, Bangladesh and Iran. This has meant premium quality Indian teas are facing stiffer competition in the global market.

On the whole the mood of the industry is very positive and vibrant once again, Kakaty said.

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