India’s Tea Exports Increase, Output Drops

JORHAT, Assam

Tea estate in Assam, harvest season starts

Quality played a key role in India’s tea exports, which saw a jump of nearly 7 percent during the April–January period of 2017–18 over the corresponding period in the previous year. Last year, the country’s tea exports had touched a 36-year high of 240.7 million kilograms. The previous record was in 1981 when exports reached 241.25 million kilograms. Significant destinations for tea exports were Egypt (6.16 million kilograms higher), Iran (4.15 million kilograms higher), China (2.80 million kilograms higher), as well as the UAE and Sri Lanka.

Tea Board of India chairman P.K. Bezboruah told World Tea News that a few exporters who used to supply poor-quality tea were blacklisted a few years ago. “Now India has been exporting quality tea and this is one of the key reasons for an increase in exports,” he said. India’s tea exports grew to 200.67 million kilograms during April–January in fiscal year 2017–18 compared with 188.10 million kilograms in 2016–17.

As much as 8.87 million kilograms of tea were shipped to Egypt during the 10-month period of 2017–18, up from 2.98 million kilograms the year before, Tea Board data stated. Tea exports to Pakistan stood at 12.73 million kilograms in the period, compared to 9.65 million kilograms exported in the corresponding period of 2016–17. India’s tea exports to China during the period were at 6.66 million kilograms, up from 5.14 million kilograms. Exports to Iran went up to 24.62 million kilograms, from 21.06 million kilograms.

Tea estate in Assam, harvest season starts

According to provisional data of the Tea Board of India, exports, in value terms, stood at Rs 3,970.37 crore (US$610.2 million) in the 10 months of the current fiscal year, up by about 2.5 percent from Rs 3,874.82 crore (US$595.4 million). However, in January alone, exports were down marginally by 2.28 percent to 20.55 million kilograms, compared to 21.03 million kilograms exported in the year-ago month.

In value terms, exports during the month also fell to Rs 408.74 crore (US$62.8 million) from Rs 412.35 crore (US$63.4 million) in January 2017. Exports to Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Germany fell. “The coming year is expected to begin on a good note as far as prices are concerned,” said Azam Monem, chairman of the Indian Tea Association (ITA), talking to Business Standard late last year. “There is no carryover stock; there is a production shortfall in the face of higher demand in the country; and the export situation is also improving.”

India’s estimated tea production in January 2018 stood at 17.15 million kilograms —down by 10.49 percent from 19.16 million kilograms produced in the year-ago month, according to figures from the Tea Board of India. The decrease of 2.01 million kilograms in January was mainly due to a fall in production in Assam and West Bengal. Assam’s production for the month was stagnant at 1.32 million kilograms compared with 1.31 million kilograms in the corresponding month of 2017, while West Bengal’s production for the month stood at 3.33 million kilograms, down by 25.66 percent from 4.48 million kilograms produced in the same month of 2017.

Taking Assam, West Bengal, and others together, the estimated crop during the month under review in North India decreased by 20.49 percent to 4.81 million kilograms, compared to 6.05 million kilograms produced in January 2017. In South India, including Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Karnataka, tea production decreased by 5.87 percent to 12.34 million kilograms in January 2018 compared to 13.11 million kilograms produced in the same month last year. In India, small growers produced 8.32 million kilograms in January 2018, compared to 9.85 million kilograms produced by them in the year-ago month.

A dip in temperature by about 2 degrees centigrade in North India resulted in low yields in January. “Tea-rich eastern Assam has witnessed a decrease in temperature affecting sprouting of new leaves. This is a normal phenomenon and no reason to worry… producing will pick up in the next few weeks,” according to the latest Tocklai Tea Research Institute (TTRI) bulletin.

A scientist at TTRI told World Tea News that India can expect a good harvest this year of quality tea with tea bushes showing signs of good health. “Prices have already gone up in the market and the country is all set for a record production of quality tea,” he said.

Sources: Economic Times, Tea Board of India, Business Standard, Toklai Tea Research Institute