Kochi: India has joined hands with other major tea producing countries such as Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh to form an international forum that will deal with issues faced by the industry.
Tea producing countries, including smaller nations such as Kenya, Malawi, Burundi and Tanzania, have been wanting to address concerns regarding supply and consumption, as well as quality issues such as a uniform minimum level for pesticide residues, said Basudev Banerjee, chairman of government trade promotion body Tea Board of India.
Good season: A tea estate in Dhagapur, Siliguri. The climate has been favourable and production is expected at 900 million kg this year.
These countries signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to start an International Tea Producers Forum (ITPF) after they made a formal request to an inter-governmental group that met under the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization at Hungzhou, China, last week.
ITPF will become active after the participating countries get the MoU ratified by their governments in three months, Banerjee said. The ratification is necessary as the forum will be an independent body and not part of the working group of the inter-governmental group. The tea boards of India and Kenya had prepared a constitution for ITPF in November 2007.
Annual global tea production is expected to increase to 3,141 million kg from 2,565 million kg now, according to projections of the inter-governmental group, said Banerjee. India will remain the largest producer of black tea with an annual output of 1.2 million kg by 2017.
On pesticide residues, Banerjee said delegates at the meeting suggested that standard-setting bodies such as Codex Alimentarius and the European Commission should be involved in setting a uniform minimum residue limit for tea.
In India, tea producers are having a good season. The climate has been favourable and production is expected at 900 million kg this year, with exports at about 200 million kg, Banerjee said.
The country is also likely to increase tea exports to some markets, especially Egypt and Pakistan, as Kenya, a major tea producing nation, has not had good rains and some estates have been abandoned following election-related violence in the country till late February, he added.
The government also plans to set up a trade centre in Cairo, Egypt, by mid-August, said Jairam Ramesh, minister of state for commerce. It will be set up by the Tea Board and the United Planters Association of Southern India. India is expected to double its tea exports to Egypt to nearly 10 million kg in 2008 from 4.9 million kg in 2007, Banerjee said.