The Indian government is considering an incentive plan worth Rs100 crore to boost orthodox tea production and exports as the global demand for better quality orthodox tea continues to rise.
“Higher quality tea has a good overseas demand and it is important that India, the world’s largest tea producer, looks at this variety,” says minister of state for commerce Jairam Ramesh.
“An incentive scheme of the government that has been pending before the Planning Commission is likely to be cleared soon.”
While the annual tea production in India is around 950 million kg, orthodox tea accounts for only 80 million kg.
With markets, such as the independent countries comprising the former Soviet Union, now slowly shifting to this better variety of brew, and with Syria, Jordan, Tunisia and Poland depending solely on Sri Lanka for orthodox tea, there is a need to make a re-entry in this niche, the minister says.
According to Ullas Menon, secretary general of United Planters Association of South India, the planters body, currently tea estates, which have shifted from the cheaper CTC (cut, tear, curl) variety to manufacture the orthodox variety, are eligible for financial assistance of Rs2 per kg for production of orthodox dust and Rs3 per kg for orthodox leaf.
The new package is being worked out by the Tea Board of India, which is also actively engaged in promoting production and exports.
With an assured Soviet Union market in the 1970s and early 1980s, tea quality never was an industry priority. Tea manufacturers, especially in South India, shifted to the CTC variety and the industry thrived on the Soviet demand.
Sri Lanka, which produces mainly orthodox tea, is now catering to countries that once bought Indian tea, says G. Boriah, director of the tea board. He says tea manufacturers must target the overseas market now.