• India’s First Flush is Finished | Workers Protest Decision to Close Bought Leaf Factories in Assam | North Bengal Producers Want Tea Named India’s National Drink

    By Aravinda Anantharaman | Managing Editor

    India Tea News for the week ending May 24, 2024

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    India first flush finishes with low yield
    India’s first flush finishes with lower than average yield

    First Flush 2024

    The first harvest or flush has ended, and we are looking at how India fared this year. Across the country, a long, dry winter and late rains that fluctuate between too little and too much have affected crops. Overall, it appears that North India saw a decrease in yield by as much as 35-50% compared to the same period last year. Prices have not been commensurate.

    Darjeeling experienced a long dry spell. The much-needed January rain did not show up this year. The problem of cheap tea imports from Nepal continues unchecked. Planters have been calling for checks on Nepal imports, better import testing, and protection of the Darjeeling heritage. This year saw more garden closures, which is expected to impact production, which saw one of its recent lows at 6.18 mn kilos last year.

    In Sikkim, the first flush was delayed by 3-4 weeks due to late rains, which caused a late harvest. The second flush began earlier—by about two weeks—because of rising temperatures. Crop volume has also dropped here.

    In Assam, production has dropped, as compared with last year, by close to 35%. March crop was down by 14mn kilos. Lack of rain has brought crop loss. The order to route 100% dust via auctions, while still not seen as beneficial by the planters, continues. However, prices are going up compared to last year. In the most recent Sale 21, two teas from Deckiajuli fetched upwards of Rs 600/ kilo – the BP grade sold for Rs 605 while PF grade sold for Rs 651.

    Kangra experienced dry weather, and the crop was down. Production of the green tea, which is a highlight here, was delayed. Demand and prices are low.

    South India has seen some better crops despite late rains and a hot summer. In March, the Nilgiris saw an increase of nearly 3 million kilos over 2023. Its traditional export markets of Iraq, Syria, Turkey, and CIS countries have been active, and Orthodox offerings have been doing well. However, currently, the region is seeing a long dry spell, which will impact crop production in the coming weeks.

    Assam BLFs to close June 1st

    The pesticide issue continues to plague Assam, and the Assam Bought Leaf Manufacturers Association, representing 110 factories, has said it will stop production on June 1st. The association states that buyers have refused their teas because of pesticide concerns. The Bought Leaf Factories say they have no control over pesticide use by small tea growers. Meanwhile, the Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangh has rallied the workers and held several protests. In Moran, workers gathered at the Bamunbari and Khowang gardens owned by Andrew Yule to protest against nonpayment of wages for several months. In Dibrugarh, protests were seen at the Basmatia Tea Estate.

    Make Tea A National Drink

    On May 21st, the North Bengal Tea Producers’ Welfare Association (NBTPWA) called for declaring tea India’s “national drink.” During the Tea Day celebrations in Siliguri, the association distributed 5,000 cups of tea. They seek to make tea attractive to youth and increase tea consumption.

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  • India Orders Testing of Every Batch of Imported Nepal Tea | Tata Reports Greater Shift to Premiumization | India Halts Exports to West Asia

    By Aravinda Anantharaman | Managing Editor

    India Tea News for the week ending April 26, 2024
    India Tea News | Aravinda Anantharaman
    Nepal Truck enroute to India
    Nepal truck en route to India

    Tea from Nepal Stopped for Testing

    After repeated urging from Darjeeling’s tea planters, the Centre has issued a circular stating that every batch of tea entering India from Nepal must be tested for pesticide residues. Until now, Customs has tested a small percentage of the samples randomly. With the new amendment, every batch comes under scrutiny. The testing is done at the National Food Laboratory, Kolkata, and takes 15 days. This means the trucks carrying the tea will remain at the roadside awaiting results. Nepal depends on India as over 90% of its tea is exported here. However, Darjeeling’s tea planters have insisted that the Centre stop Nepal tea imports as it has affected both the quality of tea sold as Darjeeling tea (blended with Nepal tea) and prices. Further, India pays a 40% import duty on Nepal tea, while Nepal is not obliged to pay any for imports from India following a trade agreement. Non-compliance to food safety standards is a pressing concern in the Indian tea industry. – Kathmandu Post

    Tata Reports Revenue from Premium and Sub-Premium Brands

    Money Control has reported that premium and sub-premium brands brought over two-thirds of Tata Consumer Products’ revenue for the financial year that just ended. Tata Tea Gold, Tata Tea Premium, and Tetley Green Tea performed well, with e-commerce driving sales. It is a sign that consumers seek better quality tea via recognized brands. Informist Media has reported that in the financial year ending March 2023, TCPL bought 20.7 mn kilos of tea from North Indian auction centers, averaging Rs 170 per kilo. The market leader, Hindustan Unilever, bought 51.3 mn kilos at an average price of Rs 179.6 per kilo. Lower prices at auctions indicate that both companies stand to earn higher margins.

    India Halts Tea Exports to West Asia

    As tensions increase between Iran and Israel, Indian tea sellers have halted exports to Iran and the Middle East. Shipping companies are also expected to stay away from these ports. This will be a setback for Indian tea as Iran—once a major buyer—is also a gateway to West Asian countries.

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  • Amalgamated Plantations (APPL) Head Resigns | First Flush in North India Sees Low Crop But High Quality

    By Aravinda Anantharaman | Managing Editor

    India Tea News for the week ending April 19, 2024
    Amalgamated Plantations operates gardens in Assam and Dooars

    Amalgamated Plantations (APPL) Head Resigns

    Vikram Singh Gulia, MD and CEO of the Amalgamated Plantations Pvt. Ltd. will leave on 30th June 2024. He is the second head of one of the top five tea corporations to resign this year after Atul Asthana’s exit from the Goodricke Group. The APPL Board has appointed Sukhjeet Singh Malhotra, Vice-President – PSO, Tata Consumer Products, as Wholetime Director and CEO Designate, effective April 9th, 2024. The Amalgamated Plantations include 25 estates in Assam and the Dooars, producing 40 million kilos of tea annually, making them India’s second largest tea producer.

    Vikram Singh Gulia

    High Grown First Flush Sees Lower Yield but Better Quality

    The prolonged drought from October to March in north India has impacted tea crops in north India. The first flush picking began in late March; although rains have started, the crop is still in low quantity. This is seen in Darjeeling and Kangra. Vivek Lochan of Doke Tea says quality has been good and better than in recent years, thanks to the drought-induced slow growth. In Kangra, volume has also been impacted, although tea quality is up. The first flush verdict is low crop but good quality, sweet teas, better than in recent years. How the market responds is to be seen.

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  • Assam BLF Association Factories Refuse to Process Non-Compliant Tea | UPASI Golden Leaf Competition Underway | Elections Present Darjeeling Planters an Opportunity to Seek Intervention

    By Aravinda Anantharaman | Managing Editor

    India Tea News for the week ending 5th April 2024
    India Tea News | Aravinda Anantharaman
    Tea Tasting at The Tea Studio, Nilgiris

    Assam BLF Association Factories Refuse to Process Non-Compliant Tea

    The Assam Bought Leaf Tea Manufacturers Association (ABLTMA) asked its member factories not to accept non-certificated green leaf from smallholders. The association’s 110 bought-leaf manufacturers oppose mandatory auctions and emphasize compliance with the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) norms but insist that sellers present a NABL-Lab MRL certificate attesting to the tea’s safe use. The association claims a higher price realization when selling directly to buyers and has questioned the tea board’s decision.

    FSSAI discovered high non-compliance rates after its laboratories were ordered to test samples from a much larger pool of factories. The government mandate to sell 100% of dust-grade teas at auction followed.

    In direct and auction sales, buyers assume responsibility for determining the tea’s safe consumption. Testing for compliance with FSSAI thresholds for 33 chemicals is more rigorous at auction than in direct transactions.

    Assam’s BLFs are the state’s primary producer. A single BLF may source from upwards of 400 small tea growers via an agent. The problem lies in two parts: there is no single list of chemicals allowed and disallowed. The FSSAI and the Plant Protection Code each have a set of permissible chemicals. Second, small tea growers are not fully aware of the problem of chemical usage and the need for compliance with prescribed chemicals, which necessitates a lot of education at the grassroots.

    One bought leaf owner called for a ban on the disallowed chemicals in the state, which would address the issue to some extent. However, what’s banned for tea may be allowed for other crops. This raises the question of why tea is under the spotlight now. They also say chemical testing is impossible at the factory. If tests were done and the chemicals exceeded FSSAI thresholds, it would be difficult or impossible to trace the contaminated tea to its source. No infrastructure is available for checks at this stage, which is first needed. Following the call to stop production, the Assam state government has intervened, and stakeholders expect a resolution.
    The factory managers say they are committed to processing compliant tea, but that needs to be enforced by the tea board at the grower level. Concerns with compliance are not limited to BLF, as many estates also procure green leaf from small tea growers.

    UPASI and Tea Board announce the 19th edition of the Golden Leaf Competition

    This year’s theme at The Golden Leaf Awards India is TGLIA Teas for Markets. 124 teas have been received from 38 factories across south India, covering the Nilgiris, Wayanad, Anamalais, High Ranges, and Travancore. The first tasting took place on March 30th at Coonoor. Details of the final round have not yet been announced. The competition’s teas will be auctioned on April 22nd.

    Elections Present Darjeeling Planters an Opportunity to Seek Intervention

    With 2024 being an election year, Darjeeling planters are asking the Centre to intervene and rescue the tea industry from its current crisis. The region has a significant bank of voters from the tea growers’ community, and they expect to be heard.

    Weeks before the polls, Darjeeling’s north Bengal hill constituency is grappling with fast-changing political equations. According to reports in the Indian Express, leaders are switching their allegiances, and parties are receiving support from unexpected quarters.

    The political landscape in the constituency has always been tumultuous, with regional forces playing a deciding role in sealing the fate of national party candidates amid the overriding sentiment of separate statehood demand (Gorkhaland).

    The BJP has won the constituency since 2009. Unlike previous winners (Jaswant Singh and SS Ahluwalia), Raju Bista has been given a party ticket to retain the seat he won in 2019 by a landslide margin of over 4 lakh votes, writes Indian Express.

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  • Colombo International Tea Convention | July 24-26

    Early Bird Discount Ends March 31 | CITC Home Page

    Tea News Recap | 29 March 2024

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    CITC Colombo July 24-26
    CITC Colombo July 24-26

    Toward a Sustainable Tea Industry

    By Dan Bolton

    The Colombo Tea Traders’ Association and Sri Lanka Tea Board will host the Colombo International Tea Convention (CITC) at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel from July 24 to 26.

    The convention theme is “Tea: A Lifestyle & A Livelihood.” The event will explore Ceylon tea’s pivotal role, spark conversations, and inspire action toward a sustainable tea industry.

    The program includes 50 speakers and will unfold in eight sessions over three days. Events include an outcry auction, gala dinner, and beach party on closing night. A Ceylon Tea Tasting Experience will introduce attendees to Sri Lanka’s growing regions.

    Sessions include “Fair Price as a Global Challenge,” a topic of utmost relevance in today’s tea industry; an “Ozone Friendly to Zero Carbon” session on climate; and a conversation about the “Value of Tea.” Sri Lanka has emerged from financial, political, and social turmoil, addressed in a session on “The Resilience of Tea & Its Legacy.”

    BIZ INSIGHT — I will moderate the Friday discussion on “Innovation,” which features a panel of ag technology experts presenting innovations such as streamlining financial transactions, online markets, new traceability tools, digital identification, and cloud-based analysis of tea as a service.

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    Colombo International Tea Convention | Episode 161

    Dan Bolton
    Usambara Tanzania 2023

    Dan Bolton

    Dan is a niche content creator who fosters genuine connections globally through informative, educational, and captivating conversations centered around tea.
    Host | Tea Biz Blog | Podcast

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