Tea Board leans on domestic market as export prospects dim over Coronavirus

Faced with a potential fall in exports owing to the outbreak, the is stepping up promotional activity to boost consumption within the country.

Industry officials and officials are hopeful that this way, carry-over stocks can be liquidated and domestic consumption can make up for export losses.

“A brand campaign to showcase Assam tea has been rolled out in Odisha and more such campaigns will come up in major tea consuming states as well shortly,” A K Ray, deputy chairman at the told Business Standard.

States which have been shortlisted include Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana.

Ray said that the idea is to boost volume sales of superior quality tea which is priced higher.

“We will promote consumption of good quality tea among consumers in these states and are collaborating with industry bodies in this endeavour,” Ray said.

For instance, the Tea Board is collaborating with the Guwahati Tea Auction Committee (GTAC) for the outreach programme in Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Private tea packaging firms are also being roped in for this initiative.

In the campaign, GTAC and Tea Board officials are reaching out to major parts of the target state offering tea and educating people about the benefits of tea. The correct process of making good quality tea is also being showcased to interested viewers.

Industry officials said a key issue in marketing tea is that consumer do not know how to make the beverage. They said even if the finest leaves are made available, good taste is elusive as the tea is invariably under-brewed or over-brewed.

“This campaign also stresses on how to make teas. In Odisha, for instance, people had heard of Assam tea but were unaware of its availability,” Dinesh Bihani, secretary at GTAC told Business Standard. “If we can add 30-50 million kg (mkg) of domestic tea consumption, it will help mitigate losses from exports to an extent.”

Ray said the Tea Board is particularly encouraging packagers in this endeavour.

The development comes at a time when the Tea Board has signalled a brewing crisis in the tea sector. The virus has already hit India’s key export market, with Iran, Japan and other countries cancelling forthcoming tea exhibitions.

Exports to West Asia have also been impacted due to the prevalent geo-political tensions and shipments to the UK have hit the Brexit wall. To make matters worse, exports to Pakistan, formerly the fourth largest export market for India, have also been declining due to souring relations with the neighbour.

Ray and Indian Tea Association (ITA) officials said that while the export situation is expected to look gloomy this year, India is also burdened with over-production and heavy inventory levels may wreak havoc on prices this year.