Indian tea firms get red carpet welcome from China

Indian tea firms get red carpet welcome from China


Anil K Joseph / PTI

Beijing: China has offered a red carpet welcome to Indian tea majors, including Tata Tea, to substantially increase their market presence and investment in the world’s most populous nation and break the near monopoly of multinationals like Unilever.

“We welcome more Indian tea companies to China and are willing to offer all assistance to expand their presence in the country’s growing tea market," deputy executive director of China Tea Expo (CTE), Wang Tong told PTI.

Tata Tea’s foray into China is a good move by the Indian tea giant, Wang said, hoping that more Indian companies would follow suit and explore mutually beneficial business relationship in the country with Chinese tea companies.

In May, Tata Tea signed a joint venture agreement with Zhejiang Tea Import & Export in east China’s Zhejiang Province, taking a major step in penetrating the Chinese market.

The joint venture plans to manufacture and market of green tea polyphenols, other green tea extracts, cold and hot water soluble instant tea, liquid tea concentrates and other value added tea beverage products.

Welcoming more Indian participation at the upcoming China Tea Expo 2007 to be held here 14-17 October, Wang said the exhibition would be a good opportunity for the Indian tea industry and exporters to meet with their Chinese counterparts and exchange views.

"With the standard of living of Chinese people steadily improving, their tastes are also changing fast,“ Wang said, noting that black tea is gaining popularity in China which was earlier dominated by locally produced green tea.

According to some estimate, Chinese drink 700,000 tonnes of tea per year.

Wang noted that multinational Unilever, which owns the Lipton brand has been enjoying huge success in China all these years, nearly monopolizing the Chinese black tea market.

Unilever has also acquired some tea estates in east China’s Anhui Province in an effort to further expand its tea production base, he said.

“If the Indian tea companies, with their exquisite variety of black tea, including Darjeeling tea, enter the Chinese market, I am sure they will also enjoy a good market share," Wang said.

However, he lamented that an experiment done by China Tea Company Limited, the biggest local player, in 2006 to market Indian black tea in China did not succeed.

At the same time, Wang, also General Manager of the state-run China National Native Produce and Animal By-products Import and Export Corporation, noted that the tea industries of China and India lacked proper communication channels to exchange views about market conditions and matters of mutual interest.

Wang said CTE plans to lead a high-level delegation of Chinese tea industry to India in 2008 to explore opportunities for mutually-beneficial cooperation, including finding market for green tea in India.