Orders of Indian tea by buyers in Iran slowed abruptly in December, as the Iranian government stopped issuing the licenses required to import products. Iranian officials have not issued an explanation for the move.
India's Ministry of Commerce and Industry said that the slowdown appeared to be related to a bilateral balance-of-trade issue, as Iran's imports from India have grown faster than its shipments to Indian buyers during 2022. According to official figures cited in the Financial Tribune, a Teheran-based newspaper, Iran has registered a large trade deficit with India during the first nine months of the year.
Anshuman Kanoria, chairman of the Indian Tea Exporters Association, noted that shipments to Iran based on orders registered in months past have continued to cross the border or be landed in Iranian ports. Only new orders have been impeded.
Sujit Patra, secretary of the Indian Tea Association, told India's Economic Times, “We have been exporting tea to Iran for a very long time, and there is a huge demand for Indian tea in Iran.”
“We have taken up the Iran issue with India’s commerce ministry, the tea board of India, DGFT (Directorate General of Foreign Trade), and the Indian embassy in Tehran. The Indian government has said they are trying to ascertain the reason,” Patra said.
Kanoria is optimistic that new contracts will resume soon.
India exports 30–35 million kilograms of orthodox tea annually to Iran. Because Iranian buyers prefer orthodox processed tea, which is priced higher than commodity-grade product, Iran is an influential trading partner. India shipped tea to Iran from January through September valued at $66.4 million.
In 2021, Iran imported $121.7 million worth of tea from all sources, according to UN Comtrade statistics compiled by World's Top Exports. The UAE, Sri Lanka, and India are Iran's top suppliers. Iran also grows and exports tea, mainly to the UAE, which bought 8,300 metric tons in 2021 valued at $8.8 million.