Russia not to buy Indian tea

Himalayan News Service

Guwahati, May 29:

Russian tea experts today warned India that its position in the world market would further slide if the country failed to produce quality brew to cater to the changing taste of drinkers.

“Unless there is consistency in producing quality teas, we are not going to touch Indian tea and so would other major tea importers across the world,” said Ganievich Gantsev, a tea taster from Bashkortostan in Ural. A team of Russian tea tasters, traders and embassy officials led by Gantsev were in Assam, the heart of India’s tea industry, at the invitation of the Tea Board of India, the apex administrative and regulatory authority. The Russian delegation had earlier visited tea industry officials and planters in southern India, before holding interactive sessions with tea growers in Assam.

“Quality apart, tea growers should consider lowering prices of tea, besides sending consignments on time,” Gantsev told a group of planters and officials at the Guwahati Tea Auction Centre here,”For us back home in Russia, it is more profitable selling Sri Lankan tea than the Indian brew as it is cheap and quality-wise consistent. People in Russia today do not want to drink Indian tea due to its quality. You should have sufficient information on the Russian market if you want to reverse the trend and establish your position as a major tea exporter once again.”

Before the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Moscow accounted for about 50 per cent of India’s total exports. India is the world’s largest tea producer, with Assam accounting for about 55 per cent of the total 864 million kg produced last year. India’s $1.5 billion tea industry is facing the worst crisis, with prices dropping in weekly auctions and exports and domestic consumption falling. The slump in prices was largely attributed to inferior quality tea being produced by various Indian gardens.

A kg of good quality Assam tea earlier sold for about Rs 100 Indian Currency (IC). In the last weekly auctions, it fetched about Rs 30 IC lower than the normal price. “The biggest problem with Indian tea is the bad image it has in Russia,” added Valery Khromchenkov, a first secretary in the Russian embassy here. “A couple of years back, some producers from south India wanted to pass off sub-standard tea. Now no one wants to touch Indian tea, even if it is from Assam or Darjeeling,” Khromchenkov said. Indian planters who attended the meeting with the Russian delegation said the feedback from the Russian delegations was very positive. “We need to change our outlook if we are serious at competing in the world market,” a senior planter said.