Russian deal for north Bengal tea

The CII’s North Bengal Zonal Council has reached an understanding with a Russian company for direct export of tea from here to the Republic of Bashkortostan. The deal came through after five months of negotiations.

“Teastan, a company based in Ufa, the capital of Bashkortostan, has agreed to buy 20 tonnes of orthodox tea from north Bengal every month,” G.S. Hora, the next chairman of CII’s zonal council, said.

“A consortium of about 20 stakeholders from different sections of the tea industry, namely planters, traders and blenders, is being formed in Siliguri. The exports will take place through this consortium. Once it is formed, a formal agreement will be reached between the company and the consortium. As a facilitator, it was our job to create an interface between the industries of the two countries,” said Hora.

Bashkortostan is a federal subject of Russia.

“The deal with Russia is a significant development for the tea industry,” said Sravan Chowdhury, a tea trader who was a member of the delegation that went to Ufa in November last year. “Russia used to be a very big market for Indian tea, before we lost out to Kenyan and Ceylonese brew. It caused a huge damage to the industry here. Now, we can look forward to recapturing the market.”

The tea that would be exported to Russia is black orthodox tea of TGFOP (tippy, grainy flowery orange pekoe) and FOP (flowery orange pekoe) grades. Chowdhury said Russia is witnessing a change in tea-drinking pattern from predominantly CTC to orthodox tea.

The quality of the tea exported to Bashkortostan has to be of very high standard. “Every month, samples will be sent to them,” Hora said. “They will be tested to see if they conform to the Russian standards, after which the exports would be made.”

A recent communiqué to the CII has made it clear that the tea should not contain more than seven per cent moisture and 0.0005 per cent metallomagnetic admixtures (metallic residues). “The tea must conform to their requirements under GOST P 1937-90 (TOCT P 1937-90), the Russian certificate of conformity,” Hora said.

Ravi Agarwal, another member of the delegation, said the deal was prestigious for north Bengal. “It is the first time that the Republic of Bashkortostan is trading directly with another country. So far, all industries in the small republic were dependant on Moscow.”