India strives to revive tea exports to Egypt

"We have revived the tea centre at the Indian embassy in Cairo to promote the Indian Orthodox and CTC (crush, tear, curl) teas by encouraging local buyers and consumers to taste and sip them," Indian Tea Promotion Centre (ITPC) Director M.R. Heiza told IANS here.

The ITPC-Cairo was set up in January 2010 as a joint venture by the state-run Tea Board and the United Planters' Association of Southern India (Upasi), an apex body of commodity planters in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka.

A whopping 30 percent import duty on India tea by the Egyptian government in 1992 forced importers to opt for zero duty Kenyan teas.

Decade-long efforts of the Indian government, however, paid off when the duty was slashed to five percent in 2005 and two percent in 2008.

"It was the efforts of then Union minister of state for commerce Jairam Ramesh that finally helped to reduce the import duty on Indian tea and revive interest in the CTC variety, a flavour of Egyptians," Heiza said on the margins of the Upasi's two-day annual conference.

The prohibitive Egyptian import tariff made the Tea Board and Indian exporters to shut the tea centre at the Maulana Azad cultural centre in Cairo and move to the Dubai Tea Trading Centre (DTTC) in Jabel Ali where the commodity is allowed to be imported duty free.

"The main role of ITPC is to restore the popularity of India tea in Egypt where it enjoyed patronage over centuries by opening kiosks across Cairo and encouraging importers to sell the Indian CTC and Orthodox variety in bulk or packet to department stores and retail outlets," Heiza, an Egyptian, said.

Of the total 80 million kg of tea imported by Egypt annually, Kenyan teas account for about 90 percent, while Indian and Sri Lankan tea compete for the remaining 10 percent.
With 1.1 kg per annum, Egypt ranks sixth in per capita consumption of tea after Turkey (2.5kg), Britain (2.1 kg), Ireland (1.5 kg), Morocco (1.4 kg) and Iran (1.2 kg).

Though India is the world's second largest producer of tea (979 million kg in 2009) after China (1,310 million kg), it ranks 11th with per capita consumption at modest 750 gm per annum followed by Pakistan and Germany (700gm).

"Our target is to increase the share of Indian tea in Egypt to 15 percent by 2015 from five-seven percent currently and replicate the success in other West Asian markets where Orthodox and CTC varieties are equally popular," Heiza said.
As part of its mission to revive or promote India tea, ITPC mediates between Indian exporters and Egyptian importers to execute deals and render technical support in blending, packaging and branding.

State-run Egyptian firms imported about 4,000 tonnes of bulk tea in the first seven months (Jan-July) of 2010 as against 2,000 tonnes in 2009, while private firms imported 2,875 tonnes till July this year as against 2,500 tonnes in 2009.

"We are roping in the Kolkata-based Indian Tea Association (ITA) to encourage north-east exporters to join in our efforts to promote Indian tea in Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iran, Iraq and Palastine, as production in the region, especially in Assam and West Bengal is double that of south India," said Heiza.

For instance, private Egyptian firms imported 250 tonnes of packet tea in the first seven months of this year as against nill in 2009.

Of the total 979 million kg tea produced in 2009, north India accounted for 735 million kg and south India for 244 million kg.

In terms of exports, however, south India accounted for 93 million kg as against 99 million kg by north India out of the total 192 million kg in 2009, valued at Rs.2,617 crore (Rs.26.17 billion).

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