Kohinoor Mandal

Kolkata, March 15

DURING 2004 Indian tea production dropped by more than four per cent but two major competitors, Kenya and Sri Lanka, have registered nominal growth compared to the previous year.

According to statistics released by Indian Tea Association, domestic tea production dropped to 820.2 million kg (mkg) from 857.1 mkg, registering a fall of 36.9 mkg or 4.3 per cent.

Within the country, North Indian production fell 29.1 mkg to end at 634.5 mkg against 663.6 mkg in 2003. In South India output dropped by 7.8 mkg to 185.7 mkg.

However, Kenyan tea production jumped by 10.5 per cent. During 2004 it went up to 324.6 mkg from 293.7 mkg. Sri Lankan tea production registered 1.6 per cent growth, going up to 308.1 mkg from 303.2 mkg.

Tea production in Bangladesh, Uganda and Zimbabwe dropped but in Malawi it jumped by 20 per cent to end at 50.1 mkg. Tanzania too registered a growth of 4.1 per cent with a production of 30.7 mkg.

Meanwhile, in the first two months of 2005, tea production and exports has dropped compared to the corresponding first two months of 2004.

Indian tea exporters have managed to increase the total volume of trade with the global market with the figure going up from 173.68 mkg in 2003 to 183.64 mkg in 2004. The value of total trade increased to Rs 1,674 crore from Rs 1,590 crore. However, the average price of Indian tea continued to hover around the Rs 91.13 per kg mark.

Indian exporters continued to loose volume in CIS countries, Europe, the US, and some middle-east countries. However, it succeeded in regaining a part of its share in the Iraqi market when it went up from 13.36 mkg to 24.73 mkg in 2004.

In the CIS countries, Indian tea exports were down by 10.17 mkg and ended at 48.51 mkg. Similarly, in the UK it was down by 2.13 mkg and ended at 17.77 mkg. Similar losses were registered in the Netherlands, Germany and Poland.

Interestingly, Indian tea exports to Kenya registered almost a three-fold growth. From 3.49 mkg in 2003 it went up to 9.99 mkg. The average price earned from this market also increased to Rs 46.88 per kg against Rs 40.26 per kg in the previous year.

The exporters somehow managed to retain its earlier trade volume in the Japanese market. Nominal growths have been registered in UAE and Iran too. However, it dropped in the Afghanistan and Pakistan market.

Import of tea into India registered a phenomenal jump. From a meagre 9.86 mkg in 2003 it went up to 30.52 mkg marking a growth of more than 200 per cent. However, the average import price dropped to Rs 45.68 per kg from Rs 58.32 per kg.

Most of the imported tea came from Vietnam. In fact, tea imports from Vietnam went up to 17.28 mkg against a meagre 1.11 mkg in 2003. Even imports from Kenya increased but not like Vietnam. Kenyan imports increased to 3.30 mkg from 1.22 mkg in 2003.

Apart from these two countries, imports from Nepal, Indonesia and Sri Lanka remained more or less the same. Industry sources said that most of the Vietnamese tea was imported and then re-exported. So, India net exports dropped drastically in 2004.

The average tea price in the six auction houses improved during 2004 over 2003. From an average of Rs 56.05 per kg it increased to Rs 64.57 per kg marking a growth of Rs 8.52 per kg.

In the three North Indian auction centres the average price went up Rs 71.52 per kg from Rs 61.34 per kg. In the South India auction centres it went up to Rs 46.77 per kg from Rs 39.97 per kg in 2003.

However, total sales through the auction mechanism dropped to 470 mkg in 2004 from 477 mkg in 2003. While in North India it dropped by 21 mkg in South India it increased 14 mkg.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated March 16, 2005)
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