Kochi: Tea-producing countries, including India, are looking to form a forum to safeguard their interests and promote certain minimum common programmes to help boost trade.
In connection with the international tea convention in Colombo, from 29 August to 1 September, the producing countries will be holding a meeting a day before to look at ways for concretizing the proposal for joint moves to protect trade interests in
Overflowing cup: World total tea production is estimated to be around 3.5 billion kg, while consumption is about 3.2 billion kg.
Basudev Banerjee, chairman of Tea Board of India, the country’s trade promotion body, said major tea-producers such as India, China, Sri Lanka and Kenya had certain common issues that they would like to handle jointly.
The meeting on 28 August would be a follow-up of a proposal made in 2006 on the sidelines of an inter-governmental group meeting on tea in Kenya to look at a joint forum, he added.
J.K. Thomas, president of the growers’ body United Planters’ Association of South India (Upasi), while denying that the intention is to form a cartel, said it would on lines similar to the International Pepper Community (IPC) or International Rubber Study Group (IRSG) or International Coffee Organization (ICO) that looked into the issues of those commodities and suggested ways to tackle them jointly.
A major crisis before the tea industry is excess supply.
Total tea production is estimated to be around 3.5 billion kg, while consumption is about 3.2 billion kg.
Thomas said what had to be done would be to take out this excess supply and not promote additional supply.
The United Nations was funding projects to extend tea cultivation areas in East Africa that can cause a further supply-demand gap, which could result in lower price for growers.
India and China lead the list of tea-producing nations with a combined production of nearly 2 billion kg, followed by Sri Lanka and Kenya, who account for nearly 750 million kg each. The combined contribution of the four countries is nearly 80% of the total tea output of 3.5 billion kg.
Similar to the groups such as IPC or IRSG, or for that matter even the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec), which jointly dealt with issues pertaining to their commodities, tea-producing countries too had to come together, Thomas said.
N. Dharmaraj, a top official of Upasi and convener of its international tea-cupping contests, said the move was initiated during the Kenyan tea convention because it was strongly felt that in the wake of growing supply, new trade norms pertaining to quality and pesticide residue levels needed to be addressed.
In addition, the meet also agreed on the need to boost domestic consumption among producing countries.
Ullas Menon, secretary general of Upasi, said besides the meeting to plan a joint move, the convention, starting on 29 August, would be a platform of producer and consumer member tea boards and associations to discuss important issues of supply and demand, maximum pesticide residue levels, certification processes, and value addition.
The discussions at similar conventions earlier had proved to be of great help, Menon said, adding that there have been moves for a joint action plan on pesticides by both tea-producing and tea-consuming nations.