Kolkata: The good news is that the US-Iran conflict is yet to affect payment and orders from Iran, which has recently emerged as the top export destination for Indian tea, unseating Russia.
Iranian tea buyers are still placing orders and negotiating contracts for high-quality orthodox tea. But that does not take away concerns and worries of Indian tea planters. Any escalation of tension between the two countries would clip the boom in tea shipment, tea industry officials felt.
Indian tea export to Iran has crossed 50 million kg (mkg) for the first time during January-November 2019, up 84 per cent year-on-year. Iran normally buys orthodox teas from India. The country exported 50.43 mkg at a high unit price of $3.91 (Rs 280) a kg, up 12 per cent from the same period in 2018. India’s overall exports during the 11 months stood at 227.71 mkg against 231.36 mkg in the same period of 2018. The unit price realisation has improved by 9.55 per cent to Rs 226.55 per kg YoY.
India, meanwhile, is headed for record tea production in 2019. The Tea Board of India statistics for November shows that India produced 139.39 mkg against 121.10 mkg in November 2018, a gain of 15.10 per cent. While north India produced 16.13 mkg more to reach 117.64 mkg, south India produced 2.16 mkg more to reach 21.75 mkg. If this trend continues, India’s production in 2019 may reach nearly 1,380 mkg, the highest ever, analysts felt.
Consider few facts on the domestic front. Average Darjeeling tea prices were down by Rs 70-80 per kg in 2019. Prices fell despite production stagnating at around 8 mkg. Nearly 3-4 mkg import from Nepal has been a dampener for Darjeeling tea. The prices of this variety had fallen 20-25 per cent last year. Mind you. orthodox tea, imported from Nepal and commonly known as Himalayan tea, is similar to the Darjeeling variety in taste, aroma and flavour, but cheaper by more than 50 per cent. While Darjeeling tea, in bulk sales, is priced Rs 320- Rs 360 a kg, Nepal ea is not even half that price.