Kolkata: The Tea Board is in the final stage of preparing a detailed roadmap on regaining lost export markets of the Indian brew and entering some new and non-traditional geographies for expansion, which will be submitted to the Union commerce ministry for its nod “very soon”. The agro-industry regulator has set its sights on an ambitious target of an exports jump of 50% to 300 million kg (mkg) tea a year, besides increasing per capita annual domestic tea intake by 250 gm to one kg by 2025.
In Covid-hit 2021, India had shipped 195.5 mkg of tea, which was a huge drop from the 2019 figure of 252.2 mkg. The board expects 240 mkg exports in 2022.
“Our detailed plans and proposals will be sent to the commerce ministry for consultations and passage very soon. The board is proactive about meeting this achievable target. If problems of payment, freight and shipping can be eased, we will be able to fill the void created by the halt in exports of Sri Lankan tea. Our annual production and its quality are enough to regain the lost markets in exports and enter some new and non-traditional geographies,” Sourav Pahari, the chairman of the state-run regulator, told TOI following the daylong seminar on the International Tea Day on Saturday organised by the board along with the Indian Tea Association (ITA).
According to him, the board will act as the hands-off promotion body and enthuse tea producers to come out of their comfort zones. Pahari urged the Tea Inc to explore new markets other than CIS countries (Commonwealth of Independent States) and Iran, the two major export markets for India. “We should enter the markets of North America, Western Europe, Canada, South Korea, etc,” he said. The ongoing Ukraine-Russia war has also spiked freight costs, he noted.
The industry had not foreseen these challenges in the past, rued Pahari. “We are trying to target the younger generation who have not grown up on tea. We need to think of tea as a total value chain from the producer to the consumer. We need to reinvent tea and it should be made trendy.”
During the inaugural session, Union minister of state for commerce and industry Anupriya Patel had spoken on the need to make India a global supplier of quality tea. ITA chairperson Nayantara Palchoudhuri said India consumes around 80% of homegrown tea and holds 12% of the global tea exports market, which can be improved with a thrust on sustainability.
However, the board chairman said all generic promotion of the beverage within the country and abroad must be industry-driven rather than a board-driven initiative. “We want producers and traders to breathe easy, focus on quality and promotion in unison. The board will join their efforts,” he added.
“There is demand for good quality tea in the domestic and export market,” said ITA vice chairman and Goodricke managing director Atul Asthana.
APPL MD Vikram Singh Gulia, who is also the ITA domestic tea promotion committee head, suggested that if Indians pay at least 50 paisa more for a cup of tea than they are currently paying, the industry can get back in shape.