Tea board signs MoU with Russia to promote tea exports
THE Tea Board of India has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Russia’s ‘Roschaikofe’ association to promote export of premium quality tea to this country in an effort to restore the flagging image of the Indian beverage in the local market. The MoU signed last night by the chairman of the Tea Board Basudev Banerjee and Ramaz Chanturiya, the general director of ‘Roschaikofe’ association of Russian tea and coffee traders and packers, provides for creating favourable conditions for activities of tea organisations to boost trade-turnover. In a major drive to recapture dominant position lost over last five years to Sri Lanka, the Tea Board chairman had brought with him over 20-member strong delegation of the Indian industry involved in growing, processing and exporting premium quality traditional tea from Assam, Darjeeling and Nilgiris. In the Soviet days, India was the largest supplier of black tea to the Russia market. However, since the break up of the USSR the local consumers have shifted their preferences to premium quality orthodox (leaf) tea from CTC (granulated) earlier imported from India in large volumes. Addressing the Indo-Russian tea traders business meet, the Tea Board chairman underscored that quality has to be priority in exporting tea to Russia. “Quality is the priority and not quantity and volumes,” Banerjee said. Russia imports 167 million kilos of tea of which 39% is supplied by Sri Lanka and India’s share has shrunk to 20% since 2001. Setting up joint ventures for the packaging of high quality bulk tea in Russia and Russia investments in tea plantations were identified as the areas which could boost the tea trade along with brand promotion, India’s weakest point in the current Russian market dominated by multi-national brands. Banerjee told the Russian business about the opportunities available in India, including 100 per cent FDI in tea plantations for three years. A senior official of the Russian Agriculture Ministry, N Seriogin, told the Indian tea exporters that they should avail the benefit of ‘zero duty’ on import of bulk tea in Russia for setting up joint ventures in the country. Addressing the tea meet after tasting session, where for the Russian tea importers could for the first time taste the unique ‘white Darjeeling’ tea, Seriogin said in the Soviet times Indian tea was a benchmark of quality among the Russians, who in reality drink more tea than vodka. “In the changed scenario only with the export of best quality tea India can restore its image and regain the just place in the market,” Seriogin underscored.