Buoyed by the "encouraging" demand scenario in overseas markets, Indian tea exporters are hoping to ship out 220-225 million kg in 2022, and are keen on filling up the vacuum left by crisis-hit Sri Lanka, officials said.
India exported 196.54 million kg of tea in 2021 worth Rs 5,311.15 crore.
"At present, India has extremely good export demand. Of course, this has been aided by the situation in Sri Lanka, Indian Tea Exporters Association Chairman Anshuman Kanoria told PTI.
"This year, we are hopeful to touch the 225 million-kg mark in terms of outward shipments of tea. The majority of the crop that is exported is of orthodox variety. Prices of this variety are up by around 10-20 per cent year-on-year depending on quality," he said.
Given the demand scenario, the industry is expecting a 40-50 per cent increase in the tea export value over the next two-three years, Kanoria said. Shipments in the initial months of the current season starting from March are up 10-20 per cent, said Mohit Agarwal, Director of Asian Tea Company, one of the top five tea exporting entities in the country.
He said the industry is facing some difficulties in getting containers for sanctions-hit Russia, but demand for the orthodox variety in Middle East countries is "encouraging". The industry is expecting to achieve the pre-Covid level export volume of 250 million kg next year, he said.
"The export market for Indian tea remains buoyant and we are optimistic of achieving at least 220 million kg of exports this year. The maximum residue levels (MRLs) issues in the domestic market do not have any impact on the export front. All international buyers test our consignments and have not registered any complaint," Agarwal, a member of ITEA, told PTI. MRLs are defined as the maximum concentration of pesticide residue likely to occur in food after the use of pesticides, according to good agricultural practice (GAP).
"A compilation of international laws would restrict usage of almost every pesticide, and there are huge discrepancies in laboratory results, with each stating that results are subject to +/- 50 per cent error margin. In such an environment, a lab failure is more of a legislative rejection rather than a reflection of safety," Kanoria said.
The exporting community conducts stringent testing to ensure that all exported teas are compliant with norms of the importing country, he said. "Producers are obliged by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) to produce teas compliant with the country's food safety laws. Indian tea exports have been well accepted globally with less than 0.1 per cent of shipments having issues, if at all," the ITEA chief said.
South India Tea Exporters Association Chairman Dipak Shah said the Tea Board has to be more proactive to ensure that all testing regarding pesticides in tea leaves must end at farm-gate levels. "As the MRL issues crop up, we are getting queries from overseas buyers. We are assuring them that exporters are regularly testing consignments but we have not heard of any report about return of consignments," Shah told PTI.
Speaking on the export scenario, he said the industry remains bullish on orthodox tea, and prices of high-end products of the variety are up by Rs 40-50 in the overseas market, as Sri Lanka grapples with an unprecedented economic crisis. "Rationalising MRL laws remains an ongoing discussion and tea is one of the safest beverages in the world," the ITEA had said in a recent release.