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Pak sugar in tea cup

Calcutta, July 2: Pakistan, the third-largest tea consuming country in the world, will import 10 million kgs of quality tea from India this fiscal.

A formal memorandum of understanding between the Pakistan Tea Association (PTA) and the Indian Tea Association (ITA) was signed today.

PTA chairman Saeed Ahmed Khawaja and ITA chairman Bharat Bajoria signed the MoU.

A 14-member delegation from the Indian tea industry had left the country on June 28 on a three-day visit to Karachi. The purpose of this visit, after a gap of two years, was to clinch a deal with Pakistan. The delegation comprised representatives of companies like Tata Tea, Hindustan Lever, Eveready Industries, Warrens and Goodricke.

The signs of improving political relations between the two countries prompted ITA to take such a move. In February 2001, the Indian tea industry had taken a similar step to revive tea trade between the countries. But the entire exercise failed as tensions escalated between the two countries in the next one and a half years.

“We are hoping that the entire exercise by the Indian tea industry should result in better trade ties between the two countries,” an industry official said.

A joint press release issued by PTA and ITA says the Indian association would take appropriate steps to provide assistance to producers in India to facilitate tea exports to Pakistan. The PTA has also promised to take similar steps to facilitate import of tea from India.

PTA has ensured the Indian tea traders that if quality and prices are competitive then its members would import a minimum of 10 million kgs of tea from India in the current fiscal.

Pakistan imports almost 150 million kgs of tea annually. The country has the highest per capita consumption. Moreover, the economic spread there allows a sizeable portion of the population to afford quality tea at matching prices.

PTA and ITA would also exchange relevant information in terms of production, export, import and price of tea. Both the associations would facilitate regular visits of buyer and sellers between two countries.

Pakistan officially imports 3-3.5 million kgs of tea from India. Out of this, two-thirds is Assam tea and one-third is south Indian tea. In 2002, Pakistan imported 3.12 million kgs of tea. Kenya supplies almost 55 per cent of Pakistan’s total tea import. However, when the crop fails in Kenya, Pakistan imports matching quality tea from other countries. Assam tea has been a successful substitute.

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