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Tea exporters eye Russian markets


Calcutta, Dec. 14: Indian tea exporters are putting in place strategies to break the Sri Lankan dominance in the Russian market.

A delegation led by the Indian Tea Association (ITA) and backed by the Tea Board will visit Russia in May next year.

Under a triple-five scheme, the Union government had picked Russia, Kazakhstan, Iran, Egypt and the US and asked the Tea Board to chart five strategies over a five-year period to increase exports.

Indian exports to Russia has hovered around 30-32 million kg for the last few years, while Sri Lanka has been sending close to 50 million kg, which comprises primarily orthodox tea. Russia pays close to $5 a kg for such tea, while the average cost of the CTC and orthodox tea imported from India could be $3-3.5 a kg.

“Russia is a potential market. It is time to break the Sri Lankan monopoly. Exports to Russia should increase in the days to come. We will lead a delegation to Russia in May. We also have Egypt on the agenda. But political and civil vulnerability there is an issue now,” said Arun N. Singh, chairman of the ITA. He was speaking on the sidelines of the 130th annual general meeting of the ITA.

Russia imports about 160-170 million kg of tea from across countries.

The overall Indian tea production in 2013 is expected to touch 1,190 million kg, a jump of around 65-70 million kg over 2012. While the production in north India during January-October 2013 has recorded an increase of 76 million kg, in south India the output has remained flat compared with the corresponding period.

Production in Cachar in Assam was affected by erratic climatic conditions.

According to Tea Board chairman M.G.V.K Bhanu, the share of small tea growers in the national production has been rising.

“While Darjeeling, Assam, Nilgiri are household words in markets abroad, the full potential of our Dooars, Terai and Cachar teas have not been realised. The ITA will promote these regional teas both in the export and domestic markets,” he said.

As Iran’s consumption of domestic crush, tear, curl (CTC) tea has seen a downward trend, Singh said this was an opportunity for tea from Dooars and Terai to gain a footprint in Iran as Indian tea was popular there.

“Exports so far have been good. I believe we will be able to export 10-15 million kg more than last year even if there is a loss in CTC production,” he said.

With quality teas fetching steeper prices, the industry has seen a gradual shift from CTC to a more orthodox tea being produced. In 2012-13, India exported 216.23 million kg of tea, fetching Rs 185.26 per kg against a production of 214.35 million kg in the previous year at Rs 154.18 per kg.

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