India’s Tea Board to Harness Social Media to Market Organic Tea

JORHAT, Assam, India

The Tea Board of India will launch a social media campaign to promote specialty teas from the country in domestic and international markets, according to Tea Board chairman P.K. Bezbaruah, who spoke with World Tea News at a workshop for small tea growers at Tocklai Tea Research Institute recently.

Marketing through social media is an important, effective, and economical mode of promoting various products and services, he said. “The Tea Board campaign will portray the strengths and opportunities of Indian teas in domestic and global markets and highlight the uniqueness and origin of specific products such as Darjeeling, Assam, Nilgiri, Kangra, Munnar, Sikkim, and Dooars-Terai, as well as blends like masala tea, lemon tea, and iced tea,” said Bezbaruah.

Indian teas and its varieties should be placed in the domestic and designated global markets in innovative, unique, and relevant ways to enhance knowledge and loyalty about the products among the people, said Bezbaruah, who shared that the Tea Board has floated tenders to select agencies to conduct the campaign and the process would be completed quickly.

Temi Tea Garden in Sikkim

The Tea Board decision comes in the wake of the UN panel on tea findings that organic tea produced in India has not been successful in commanding premium prices. The Working Group on Organic Tea under the FAO’s Intergovernmental Group on Tea recently stated in its report that contrary to popular perception, organic products from India have not fetched premium prices and this has led to a failure of these ventures. India is the largest organic tea producer in the world and the bulk of the produce comes from Darjeeling, where three decades of organic tea cultivation has led to around 62 out of 87 gardens now registered with the Tea Board of India as undertaking organic tea cultivation. These gardens constitute about 60 percent of the average annual production of 8.5 million kilograms of Darjeeling tea.

The Tea Board chairman said that the primary objective of the campaign is to reach out to domestic and global audiences, buyers, consumers, traders, importers, and investors to raise awareness of Indian teas and its varieties, formats, and health attributes by weaving a storyline that catches people’s imagination.

Another Tea Board official said that the selected agencies would use an online platform to engage consumers through a variety of tools such as graphic interactive designs, videos, interactive maps, and animation to generate interest. “They will utilize global officers and networks to run the campaign. Quiz contests and gift hampers will keep the users hooked to the drive,” the official said.

Tea garden at Temi Sikkim

While the Tea Board’s intentions are good, the UN report highlighted the challenges of marketing this sector of the tea market, where there is an imbalance in supply and demand. “The big tea gardens which converted to organic tea are finding it difficult to find suitable markets for their produce,” the report states, despite the fact that production of organic tea in the region has risen over the last three years. “Crop losses in organic gardens are in tune with the average of 20 to 25 percent of its original potential, with some gardens recording losses as high as 30 to 40 percent. Once lost, the crop cannot be recovered and the myth of produce going up at a later stage is not true even after practicing organic cultivation for more than 15 to 20 years. Cultivation practices are very labour intensive and with current labour shortages production will become more challenging,” the FAO report states.

Tea accounts for 2.5 percent of organic products exported from India, while tea consumption in India is only 800 grams per head. The Tea Board operates schemes to promote conversion to organic farming by providing assistance for the certification process. Some small tea gardens in eastern India are naturally organic. Sikkim is the first state in the country to be declared organic where crops grown in that state, including tea, are notably organic. Around 74,190 hectares of agricultural land in Sikkim have been certified organic. Authorities of two other northeastern states of India—Nagaland and Mizoram, bordering Assam—have proposed a gradual transformation to 100 percent organic.