Iranian team to visit tea gardens in Bengal

A 10-member Iranian delegation will visit tea gardens and factories in Bengal over the next few days. Iran is one of the big emerging export markets for Indian tea.

The delegation comprises officials from Iran’s health ministry as well as exporters.

“We had invited them to come and visit our gardens and factories for a better idea of how Indian orthodox tea is processed. They will proceed to Sri Lanka from here,” said Basudeb Banerjee, chairman of the Tea Board.

The Tea Board and the commerce ministry have identified three potential markets to promote the beverage — Iran, Pakistan and Egypt.

Iran has introduced a plant master file under which Indian tea exporters will have to register their produce with the Iranian health ministry for quality checks.

“Doing business in the Iranian market is difficult because of its bureaucratic procedures,” said an industry expert. The Tea Board expects exports to Iran to touch 7 million kg this year.

In 2006, tea exports to Iran had dipped to 4.92 million kg, earning a revenue of Rs 48.41 crore. In 2005, India exported 6.62 million kg for a total revenue of Rs 70.68 crore.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, Iran is a tea producing country that relies on substantive imports. Iran consumes approximately 100 million kg, of which 50 million kg is imported. Output in the past five years has fallen as government assistance to producers declined.

Iran lifted the ban on Indian tea imports in early 2004, which was imposed because of the huge quantity of unsold domestic stock. Earlier, Iran had a rule under which for every kg of Indian tea imported, two kg of Iranian tea was blended with it. However, now the government has relaxed this regulation.

Iranians generally prefer Assam orthodox. India has an advantage this year as the price of Sri Lankan orthodox tea, which comprises a majority of Iran’s imports, has increased sharply.

Closed gardens

The Tea Board chairman today met owners of closed gardens and bank officials.

“I am going to present a report to all the stakeholders. There has to be a mutual consensus before a final decision,” Banerjee added.

He said one or two gardens could be reopened by new or existing owners.

Source: The Telegraph