Guwahati, April 30:

India has launched an aggressive campaign to boost tea exports to Pakistan, Egypt, Iran and Iraq apart from traditional buyers Britain and Russia. A 12-member team of Indian tea officials, planters and traders returned Sunday after touring Pakistan to market the beverage.

Pakistan last year imported about 100 million kg of tea from Kenya and 16 million kg from India out of a total annual requirement of 170 million kg.

“The visit to Pakistan was extremely encouraging and we hope we are able to increase the market share of tea in that country,” said Dhiraj Kakaty, secretary of the Assam chapter of the Indian Tea Association (ITA), the country’s apex tea administration body.

The Indian team visited the tea markets of Lahore, Peshawar and Rawalpindi. “Some giant steps were made during the recent visit with a proposal to set up a tea container depot near Peshawar. The response has been very positive,” Kakaty told IANS.

India is the world’s largest tea producer followed by China, producing a record 955 million kg of tea last year, 27 million kg more than 2005. Exports have gone up by about 8 million kg to 200 million kg in the same period.

“The overall mood is vibrant. The Indian tea industry is beginning to look up with overseas demand on the increase, mainly due to very good quality teas produced by us,” the official said. Countries like Pakistan, Egypt, Iran and Iraq figured prominently in the export list.

The ITA has set up marketing bureaus in Cairo and Tehran as part of an aggressive campaign to boost sales.

“We are getting queries from all these countries and we hope to do some good business,” Kakaty said. Spurred by recent successes in drawing foreign buyers once again, the Indian commerce ministry is organising in November an International Tea Festival in Guwahati, the main city in Assam.

Assam is considered the heart of India’s tea industry. It accounts for about 55 per cent of the country’s total annual production.