| Heady concoction
Calcutta, Oct. 2: Tea trade between India and Pakistan is showing signs of improvement with tea majors like Warren Tea, Eveready Industries India Ltd and south Indian companies shipping higher quantities of tea compared with the previous years.
Industry sources said the exports were almost five times higher compared with the previous years. “During bitter political relations, Pakistan had imported 2.5–3 million kgs tea from India. If the current trend goes on, the Indian tea industry will be able to export 10 million kgs to Pakistan,” an industry official said.
Pakistan has been prompted to buy Indian tea due to higher auction prices at the Mombassa auctions. CTC tea at Mombassa is ruling at Rs 95 per kg, whereas Pakistan is buying similar tea at Rs 75-85 per kg from India.
“Better political relations between the two countries has also fuelled Pakistan’s eagerness to buy from India,” the official added.
A nine-member delegation from the Pakistan Tea Association led by chairman Saeed Ahmede Khwaja is currently in south India to explore opportunities. The team will be in Mumbai within a day and the north Indian producers are expected to hold discussions with the members.
Pakistan’s tea market potential is 140 million kgs and is valued at over $250 million. Some tea enters Pakistan through the smuggled route whose official figures are not available.
Premium tea accounts for 83 per cent, popular tea for 15 per cent and discount varieties for 2 per cent of the Pakistan tea market.
Gautam Bhalla of Warren Tea said, “The Indian tea industry is bullish about Pakistan. We are happy that South Indian tea producers, who have suffered in the last four years, are also exporting well. The memorandum of understanding between the Indian Tea Association and its counterpart in Pakistan is valid from June 2003 to July 2004.”
The Pakistan Tea Association has assured the Indian tea traders that if quality and prices are competitive then they will import 10 million kgs of tea. “The price being offered is quite competitive,” a trader said.
In 2002, Pakistan imported 3.12 million kgs of tea from India. Of this, two-thirds is Assam tea and one-third is south Indian tea. Kenya supplies almost 55 per cent of Pakistan’s total tea imports.