Tea exports fall in Sep; may pick up soon

Tea exports fall in Sep; may pick up soon

Kochi: The slowdown in the global economy has seeped into India’s tea industry as well.

While production for September fell to 107 million kg from 113 million kg in the year-ago month, exports were only 15.87 million kg during the month, against 17.8 million kg last year, though revenue from exports, at Rs190 crore, was higher than the year-ago Rs181 crore, largely on account of a rise in unit value, from Rs102.86 a kg to Rs107.54.

Basudev Banerjee, chairman of the Tea Board of India, the government trade promotion body for tea, says estimates for October exports were falling even as final data is awaited.

Still, he insists that buying would resume soon, and that some of the major buyers in Russia are in India to place orders.

The Tea Board of India predicts exports will pick up in a fortnight and will, by year-end, at least match the 156 million kg exported in 2007.

Part of that optimism stems from reports that Kenya, which is not expected to repeat its record production—369 million kg—of 2007, will likely only have about 300 million kg. That, said D.P. Maheswari, president of the United Planters Association of Southern India, will give Indian exports a boost, given the demand from Egypt, Pakistan, Iran and Iraq.

Banerjee also said the campaign undertaken by the board in Egypt and other areas should bear fruit this quarter, further pushing up exports.

Overall tea exports from India for the first nine months of 2008 have been 140 million kg worth Rs1,504.6 crore compared with 125 million kg worth Rs1,280 crore during the same period in 2007.

While exports from the southern states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka went up to 7.4 million kg worth Rs75 crore against 6.2 million kg valued at Rs47.9 crore in September 2007, exports from east India comprising West Bengal and Assam were down to 8.5 million kg worth Rs114.75 crore against 11.62 million kg valued at Rs132.79 crore in September 2007.

Production across the country has gone up 706.74 million kg between January and September compared with 689.26 million kg during the same period last year. North Indian production was marginally up to 529.57 million kg compared with 528.14 last year while in the south production went up to 188.17 million kg against 161.12 million kg in the same period in 2007.

Meanwhile, electronic auctions in tea will be formally launched in Kolkata on 19 November on a trial basis, Banerjee said. This will eventually be introduced in the other tea auction centres at Coonoor and Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu, Kochi in Kerala, Guwahati in Assam and Siliguri and Jalpaiguri in West Bengal. These trial auctions will be held every week and once glitches are sorted out, will likely go live on 15 January.