Dubai Tea Forum Airs Industry Challenges


Underpinning the joy of drinking tea is the massive blending machinery, bagging and packaging equipment, warehousing, finance and transportation logistics of the tea business.

Dubai is a crossroads of this aspect of tea. Factories here produce billions and billions of teabags from shiploads of leaves continuously arriving from China and India, Sri Lanka and Africa. In a single day these same ships can leave filled with containers of tea destined for Europe, America and Russia.

The Dubai Tea Trading Centre this week hosted these segments of the industry at a three day conference at Atlantis, The Palm.

Host Richard Smyth, newly appointed director of the DTTC, said that he is “very pleased with impressive credentials of 280 delegates,” many of whom are the senior buyers and executives at familiar tea giants including Twinings and Lipton, McLeod Russel India, James Finlay, Jay Shree, Rossell Tea, Tata Global Beverages and Goodricke Group.

Delegations from trade groups, tea boards and government-sponsored enterprises made up about 10 percent of attendees. Planters, traders from all the major import countries and equipment and materials suppliers comprise the remainder.

Ahmed Bil Sulayem, Executive Director of the DMCC

“Dubai is neutral territory to discuss important issues, a place where no one is beating a particular drum,” observes Smyth. Delegates were welcomed by Ahmed Bil Sulayem, executive director of the Dubai Multi Commodity Center and enjoyed a keynote by H.E. Abdulrahman Saif Al Ghurair, highlighting the center’s advances since its founding in 2005. Ghurair is chairman of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Presentations from the various countries reviewed current price and production statistics and individually raised challenges in home markets. Russia and the CIS states, for example, are about to enter the World Trade Organization. Executives from there predicted disruption in the market but ultimately announced their support of uniform custom charges and standards. Many presentations revolved around the difficulties encountered in changing weather patterns. Kenya, for example, continues to draw down its national reserves due to production shortfalls from a drought. India has less tea for export following a big jump in domestic consumption during a period of modest production gains. Middle Eastern trade partners suffered from political unrest this past year and continue to view large markets like Egypt and Iran as unstable.

This marked the last conference organized by Sanjay Sethi who was the founding director of DTTC. Sethi has accepted a position as director with Gundlach Packaging DMCC, based in Jebel Ali.

“Sanjay put in a lot of hard work establishing the center and moving it forward,” said Smyth, “and now he has sent the ball to us.”

Smyth plans to continue the series of tea forums with the next scheduled for spring 2014.