Kochi: The decision of Russia to ban import of all crops, including tea and coffee, from India from 28 January has sent alarm bells across the tea and coffee industry.
Roughly 35 million kg tea, worth Rs249 crore, and around 27,000 tonnes of coffee, worth Rs245 crore, were exported to Russia last year.
The ban on bulk import comes in the wake of Russia finding a beetle pest in a consignment of sesame from India.
The ban has left the industry in a quandary since a lot of consignments are on their way to Russia. The fate of these shipments is not known.
Basudev Banerjee, chairman of the government trade promotion body Tea Board, said the matter had been taken up with Russia and government officials were trying to resolve the issue.
According to D.P. Maheshwari, president of industry body, United Planters Association of Southern India, Russia is a major market for Indian tea and coffee and it has been emerging as an important destination for the higher quality orthodox tea whose production the government is now trying to boost.
“A ban, based on the finding of a beetle pest in a sesame consignment, cannot be justified since such pests cannot be found in tea or coffee. The association has taken up the matter with appropriate authorities, including the commerce and agriculture ministries, and hopes that a favourable decision will be taken,” Maheshwari said.
Ramesh Raja, managing director of Banglore-based coffee exporting firm Ramesh Exports Pvt. Ltd, said Russia is the third largest buyer of Indian coffee after Italy and Germany.
A good part of this goes as instant coffee. Since the ban is on all bulk imports, he said that it will affect instant coffee, too, which is shipped out in bulk.
“It remains to be seen as to what the Russian government does with the consignments in the high sea,” he added.