Tea producing nations unite to create a forum

New body to promote tea as a preferred beverage across the globe

By M Suchitra
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

Under the strainer (Credit: Ruhani Kaur / CSE)

Seven major tea producing countries, including India, have decided to set up a global platform for addressing common concerns of the industry. The main objectives of the International Tea Producers’ Forum (ITPF) include protecting interests of the tea-producing countries, sharing knowledge and boosting demand for tea to raise prices. Global tea prices are around $2.5 a kg, down from $2.84 a year earlier. Worldwide tea consumption, meanwhile, is set to rise over one per cent this year.

The decision to form ITPF was taken at a ministerial meeting held in Colombo on January 21.The Indian delegation was led by D Purandeswari, Union minister of state for commerce. The meeting saw representatives from India, China, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malawi, Kenya and Rwanda. Iran, a major tea consumer, was also present at the meeting. The first attempt to form such a forum was made in 1933. Again, in 1979, the International Tea Producers’ Association was formed. But it became defunct in 1984. In 1994, Colombo proposed a tea forum on the lines of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). But there was no unity among producing nations at the time.

The recent meeting has adopted the draft constitution of ITPF, subject to ratification by the governments of the respective countries. Any country producing more than two million kilogrammes of tea in a year can become a member of the forum. Consuming countries can also participate in the meetings but they will not have voting rights. The forum will also make efforts for technical cooperation and sharing expertise by the member countries, undertaking market studies and research on issues concerning the tea sector.

ITPF will be initially headquartered in Colombo. It will initially be an independent body and in future could be get affiliated to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations.

Apart from India the other countries that have signed the ITPF statement are Kenya, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Rwanda and Malawi. Iran and China did not sign the statement.

Major tea producers
About 30 countries produce tea in the world. Asia alone produces about 83 per cent of world’s tea. Five countries contribute 78 percent of world’s total tea production. China (38%), India (23%), Kenya (9%), Sri Lanka (8%) and Vietnam (4%).

India is the world's second-largest producer and the biggest consumer of tea. According to the latest data of the Tea Board, the country’s production in November 2012 was 114.03 million kg. There was a 13 percent increase compared to the previous year’s production. Assam and West Bengal together account for more than 50 per cent of total tea produced in the country. Tea production in Assam rose by 25 per cent to 60.41 million kg in November 2012 from 48.30 million kg from the same month in 2011. The production in West Bengal was up by 8 per cent to 30.02 million kg from 27.77 million kg during the same period. While the output of the brew in North India rose by 17 per cent to 92.44 million kg, tea production in South India dropped to 21.59 million kg against 21.99 kg in November 2011.

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