Tea producers and exporters in Asia and Africa are seeing a new challenge to them from Vietnam.

For some years now, this new entrant had been giving them stiff competition in some traditional markets.

“The international delegates from Asia and Africa who attended our deliberations have seen the threat from Vietnam a real challenge as by now, Vietnam has emerged as the fifth largest producer and exporter of black tea”, Dr A.V.K. Iyengar, Director, Kothari Agricultural Management Centre (KAMC) who led the deliberations, told Business Line.

Last year, Vietnam produced 178 million kg (mkg) and out of this, exported as much as 143 mkg.

“Vietnam holds 4.2 per cent share in global annual tea production while the big four ahead of it have significantly higher share – China 36.8 per cent, India 23.4 per cent, Kenya nine per cent and Sri Lanka 7.8 per cent. Still, Vietnam cannot be underestimated because with new fields and clones that will last for several years, it has potential volumes”, Dr Iyengar said.

“In the export basket, Vietnam holds 8.3 per cent share while the big four ahead of it have significantly higher share – Kenya 24.5 per cent China 18.8 per cent, Sri Lanka 17.5 per cent and India 11.2 per cent. It serves little purpose to contend that Vietnamese tea is ‘cheap’ because importers are seeing it as ‘affordable’. ‘Watch Vietnam’ is the new caution, our deliberations noted,” he said.

“This programme was sponsored by Union Ministry of External Affairs. Tea plantation and factory managers, officers of Tea Boards, tea research institutes and extension wings, forest officers, professors of tea technology and science from different countries attended. The deliberations covered a wide gamut – management, domain-strengths including cultivation culture and tea tasting. Besides lectures, field visits, tea tasting sessions and interaction with scientists and experts were organised,” Iyengar said.

(This article was published on December 4, 2012)
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