Shield for tea leaves

Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd (HPCL) has come out with a specialty oil that can protect tea leaves from pests.

The company introduced HP Tea Spray Oil in Calcutta this week. The product has its roots in the base oil that goes into the making of lubricant oil.

R.S. Rao, executive director (direct sales) of HPCL, said the market size of tea spray oil would be 5,000 tonnes a year.

“We are kicking off in Calcutta because this is the hub for tea gardens in north Bengal and Assam. Going forward, we will launch in south India,” Rao said.

HPCL plans to export the oil to tea producing countries such as Kenya and Sri Lanka. 

Source: The Telegraph

Small tea growers usher in winds of change in Assam

A green revolution is sweeping Assam, empowering many people for the first time and rejuvenating the state's economy. Small tea gardens now dot the landscape as more and more people turn their backyards into mini tea plantations.
It does not really matter if you have a small patch of vegetable garden to spare or a big mass of land.
According to the All Assam Small Tea Growers Association (AASTGA), the number of small tea growers has swelled to 65,000 in the last two decades. And it is on the rise.
Assam currently produces around 480 million kg of tea. Around 30 percent of this comes from small tea growers.
Lakhi Gogoi is one of the many who has his own tea garden - Rajashree Tea Estate - in the upper Assam district of Tinsukia.
'In 2008, my green tea leaf production touched 80,000 kg. In 2009, it rose to 81,000 and this year I am expecting it to touch 100,000. Tea business is good business,' Gogoi told IANS.
Although Gogoi worked in a well-known tea company earlier, he had no knowledge of the business.
'I am well accustomed to the knowhows of tea cultivation, spraying pesticides, pruning and plucking. It was a matter of time before I realized that if the big tea companies can grow these plants and reap such big benefits, so can I,' he said.
'After years of toying with the idea, I began my venture in 1996 on a small patch of land. Over the years, I scaled up my operations and now grow tea in 50 bighas of land,' Gogoi said.
Depending on the market conditions, the price of green tea leaves varies between Rs.12 and Rs.18 a kg.
Said an AASTGA official: 'By growing tea in underutilized uplands, small tea growers have brought in a green revolution in Assam by bringing in huge socio-economic changes.'
'More than 900,000 people are involved in the small tea growing business in Assam. Almost 250, 000 hectares of land is covered for such plantations. They contribute to 29 percent of the total tea produced by Assam, which is 14 percent of the total tea production of India,' the official added.
Even farmers in villages, who traditionally grew vegetables, are now opting for tea cultivation. 'Tea cultivation brings much higher profits and is a steady source of income,' said D. Bora, a farmer.
In a state where unemployment looms large, youth are the biggest beneficiaries.
Rajiv Sharma, 28, decided to try his hands in tea plantation two years ago. He started small -- growing tea bushes in the backyard of his house. And there has been no looking back since.
'My parents were initially sceptical and said tea production has always been the big companies' cup of tea. But I was willing to take the risk. I started small and now have the capacity to invest in more land for more plantations,' Sharma said.
Unlike the big tea companies like McLeod Russel India and Goodricke, small tea growers do not have their own factories. They sell their leaves either to the big firms or smaller private factories which in turn manufacture and market it under different brands.
One of the challenges that the small tea growers are facing is that of maintaining quality.
'Not all growers are aware of banned chemicals. All they seek for are strong pesticides which will kill the pests - thus making the wrong choice. As a result, this tea does not get a good price at tea auctions,' Sharma told IANS.
It is for this reason tea leaves of small growers are manufactured and branded differently from the main brands by the big tea companies. Nevertheless, almost 25 percent of the tea manufactured by the tea moghuls are from the small growers.
While the small tea growers are helping to change the socio-economic condition in Assam, they hardly get any help from the state government.
Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Jyotiraditya Scindia's recent announcement of a special scheme to provide financial assistance to the community has, however, given them some hope.
'If the government is seriously thinking of helping us, it will be great. We are after all an unorganized sector. Let's just hope it is not another empty promise,' said Gogoi. 

Source: IANS

July tea output dips 3.2% on pest attack

Mumbai: India’s tea output fell for a second straight month in July after a pest attack trimmed crop size in the biggest producing region of the country, hardening local prices, Tea Board said in a statement on Friday.
Tea output in July fell 3.15% to 123 million kg from 127 million kg a year ago, it said. The output in June had fallen by 11.9% to 104 million kg.

A pest attack of helopeltis adversely affected tea gardens in the northeastern state of Assam, India’s top producer.

“Impact of pest attack has been easing. August production numbers are likely to be steady to slightly lower,” said an official at Calcutta Tea Traders’ Association.

Despite a drop in June and July production, the south Asian country’s tea output in Jan-July stood at 462.2 million kg, up 0.45% on year due to higher crop in Jan-April.

Tea prices of different grades in the world’s second biggest producer have risen by nearly a tenth in the past two months on a supply squeeze.

Tea Board chairman Basudeb Banerjee told Reuters in July that the country’s tea output in 2010 is likely to fall below 2009 level.

India exports CTC variety of tea, mainly to Egypt, Pakistan and the UK, and the premium orthodox variety of tea to Iraq, Iran and Russia.

Source: Reuters

Elephant found dead at Assam tea estate

Nagaon, Assam: A male elephant has been found dead at the courtyard of a house inside Kalidan tea estate near Nagaon in Assam. It's unusual for an elephant to die in such circumstances unless electrocuted. Workers at the tea estate insist the elephant died of natural causes.

255 elephants have died in Assam as a result of conflicts with humans between 1990 and 2003. Most of them were poisoned or electrocuted.

Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh announced earlier this week that the government will declare the elephant a National Heritage Animal as part of a new initiative.

The Elephant Task Force - made up of 12 members - has also recommended setting up a National Elephant Conservation Authority, similar to the existing National Tiger Conservation Authority. The task force has presented the government with a comprehensive plan for how to protect elephants in the wild and in captivity, and alleviate the human-elephant conflict.

Source: NDTV

Planters face state pay-up pressure - Interim hike hope for tea sector

Darjeeling, Sept. 1: The tea industry, under “extreme” pressure from the CPM-led state government which has its eyes on next year’s Assembly polls, is likely to accept the demand for an interim wage hike for its workers in north Bengal. The next round of talks to discuss the wage hike will be held in Calcutta on September 9.

In the last five rounds of meeting between the state, trade unions and the garden managements, the planters were unwilling to accept any interim hike since the 2008 wage agreement is in place till March next year. The 3 lakh workers in the gardens of Darjeeling and the Dooars and Terai receive a daily wage of Rs 67. The workers had demanded an interim wage hike because of the rise in prices of essential commodities.

“During the last meeting, we were under extreme pressure from state labour minister Anadi Sahu and we are now actively considering an interim hike,” said an industry source. The meeting was held in Calcutta on August 30.

Observers believe that the Bengal minister is exerting pressure on the industry with an eye on the coming Assembly elections. “The Left has much at stake in north Bengal. With the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad making substantial inroads, it is a difficult time for the Left in north Bengal now,” said an observer.

Since setting up base, the tribal outfit has been making inroads into the Dooars and the Terai displacing dominant unions like the CPM’s Citu and the Congress’s Intuc. The loyalty switch of workers that followed was such that during a strike called by the Citu on July 5, almost 80 per cent of the 227 gardens were open in the Dooars.

Till recently, the tea management was unwilling to budge from its stand to go for an interim hike. But now, when it has changed its stand, the Adivasi Parishad has made it clear that it does not want an interim hike but a new agreement where the daily wage of workers will be Rs 250. “There is still some possibility of the negotiations falling through as the Adivasi Parishad is adamant that instead of an interim wage hike, the workers should be paid Rs 250 per day. This would be very difficult to accept,” a source said.

“So far the management had agreed only to repair the workers’ houses,” the source added.

The management is, however, pinning hopes on the labour minister to also impress on the Adivasi Parishad to accept the interim wage hike and keep the demand for Rs 250 daily wage for discussion at a latter stage. “Since the minister is exerting pressure on us which has forced us to change our minds, it is only right that he should impress on the unions, especially the Adivasi Parishad to be flexible,” said the source.

Sandip Mukherjee, secretary, Darjeeling Tea Association, said there were indications of a positive outcome in the next meeting.

“I can only say that the outcome should be positive,” said Mukherjee.

Source: The Telegraph

Garden siege over power demand

Alipurduar, Aug. 31: More than a thousand workers of Subhasini Tea Estate confined the garden manager to his office for 10 hours today demanding the restoration of electricity lines that had been disconnected five months ago.

The siege that began at 7.30am was lifted at 5.30pm after the manager, Anindya Roy, assured the protesters that he would sit with the trade unions on Thursday to thrash out the issue. Work in the garden in Kalchini was hampered throughout the day.

According to Abdul Hamid, the unit secretary of the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad’s Progressive Tea Workers’ Union, the management had begun to deduct Rs 350 a month from the workers’ wages as electricity charges from October last year causing widespread resentment among the workers.

Earlier, the management had charged a worker between Rs 200 and Rs 225 a month for power consumption. But the workers protested the sudden rise in deduction from their wages and said they were ready to pay Rs 100 a month for electricity supply for 12 hours a day. Earlier, the supply was for 24 hours.

“The management did not heed our plea and instead disconnected the power lines from every worker’s quarters from April 1 this year. Since then we are living in tremendous hardship, especially the elders and the students. So we decided to gherao the manager till some assurance was given,” Hamid said.

The PTWU leader said the workers had submitted a proposal that electricity meters be installed in each quarters and the amount consumed would be paid for. But that demand was also rejected by the management, he said.

The garden has 1,200 workers.

Around 3pm, police from Hashimara outpost arrived at the garden office and tried to persuade the protesters to lift the gherao but failed.

As the manager was feeling uneasy — garden sources said the agitating workers did not allow him to drink water or use the washroom — the police asked the central leaders of the Parishad from Hashimara to come and negotiate. After the talks with the Adivasi leaders, the agitation was withdrawn.

While the manager was not available for comments, Amitangshu Chakrabarty, the secretary of the Indian Tea Planters’ Association’s Birpara branch, of which the garden is a member, said Roy’s confinement was uncalled for.

“It was very undemocratic of the workers to confine the manager to his office in this manner. What the workers have been demanding is unreasonable. However, let us see what takes place in the meeting scheduled for Thursday,” Chakrabarty said.

Source: The Telegraph

Tea imports down 10.85% at 9.2 mn kg in Jan-June

Tea imports to India fell by 10.85 per cent to 9.2 million kg in the first six months of the current year.

The country imported 10.32 million kg of tea in the April-June period last year, the Tea Board said in a statement.

Though the maximum quantum of tea came from neighbouring Nepal, its exports, however, were down when compared with the corresponding period last year. Nepal exported 2.35 million kg of tea during April-June, 2010, as against 3.04 million kg in the same period last year.

On the other hand, Vietnamese tea imports improved to 1.96 million kg in the first six months of this year from 1.92 million kg in the year-ago period.

Iran also increased its shipments to India by 1 million kg during the January-June period to 1.18 million kg, compared to the same period last year.

India, the world's largest consumer of tea, mainly imports tea from 18 countries around the world, including Papua New Guinea.

The imported tea, however, is hardly used for domestic consumption and is mainly re-exported to Iraq. A fall in the number of contracts with that country have impacted the shipments, an industry official said.

Tea production in India, the second biggest producer of tea in the world, was 979 million kg last year.

India accounts for about 28 per cent of world tea production and 14 per cent of trade. There are about 1,600 tea estates in India. The industry employs more than two million people.

Source: PTI

Positive on Tata Global Beverages: Rajesh Jain

ajesh Jain, Market Strategist, speaks to ET Now about Tata Global Beverages.

What are your reasons for liking Tata Global Beverages your target on it and why do you like it?

Tata Global Beverages is a very strong play on the tea sector. We discuss this a couple of weeks ago on the same show when I had given a set of 4 food processing stocks, 3 in the multinational space and Tata Global was a fourth one. Tata Global currently enjoys the benefit of improving tea prices thanks to the crop problems that have besieged the East India plantations. So that should really help in better realisations and Tata Tea being an integrated tea company would be able to lock into some stock profits and hence there is an opportunistic profit gain for the company there. In terms of the overall business model what is exciting is what it will be doing with Himalaya since it has acquired Mount Everest and then it has this tie up with Pepsico for affordable water as well as ready to drink health beverages. Recently they have announced the foray into foods again on the wellness platform and it would be interesting what are the kind of launches to be seen there but both the affordable water, the Himalaya drinking water as well as the food segment will take some time to acquire critical mass and start contributing to the top line and the bottom line.

I think the exciting potential in Tata Global Beverages apart from tea, team mind you was 85% of the company even today and it has a lot of sales overseas. It recently has decided to garner greater than 10% share in Sri Lankan and Pakistan markets. It already straddles a lot of the western markets. The upside in Tata Global Beverages or Tata Tea as it was known has to be the coffee business. Today it is a commodity supplier but there is tremendous upside from branding out there. We already have two very large brands in the country and I do not think there is a room for a local brand to really shake the packing order there but I think in the export market Tata Tea is already working very aggressively and I think that can give you over a 2 to 3 year time frame the big kicker in the stock. In the near term 12 to 18 months I hope the stock should be able to give a 150 which is a fair return from the current levels.

Source: ET

Pest attacks may eat into India's tea production this year

New Delhi, Aug 24 (PTI) India''s tea production may be slightly less this year year because of lower production in Assam due to excess rain and pest attacks.
"Tea production is set to fall slightly. But, it is difficult to peg the decline now," an industry official said.

Quoting the Tea Board data, the official said that during the first five months of the current year ending May, domestic tea output increased by 8.8 per cent to 234.93 million kg against 215.84 million kg in same period last year.
However, production started falling soon after. The June output was lower by 11.8 per cent to 104 million kg narrowing the first five month''s gains of 19 million kgs down to just 4-5 million kgs over the same period last year, he said.
Indian Tea Association has already mentioned production in Assam, the largest producing state, is likely to fall by two million kgs in July as all the major tea groups operating there reporting significantly lower output.

"It is apprehended that with this decline and with the outlook in August also reportedly uneven - with poor weather persisting in several parts - it would be difficult to make up the already significant decline of 10 million kgs which has been registered to date in North India," it added.

World''s largest tea producer McLeod Russel, however, said that India''s production is likely to remain stable at 975-980 million kgs in current year against 979 million kgs last year.

"North India may produce 15-20 million kg less tea during the year over the last year. However, South India is likely to fill in the gap with a better production than last year," its Chief Financial Officer Kamal Baheti said.

Baheti said that the North Indian production would dip as a result of excess rains and pest attacks, while South India would gain from favourable weather conditions.
Tea Board had earlier said that the production is likely to touch one trillion kg this year.

Source: PTI

Starbucks in talks to sell Darjeeling tea

KOLKATA: Starbucks, the world’s largest coffeehouse chain, may soon be serving Darjeeling tea in its more than 17,000 outlets across 49 countries.

The Seattle-based coffee retailer has approached the Tea Board for a licence to import and sell premium Darjeeling tea, Tea Board chairman Basudeb Banerjee told ET.

“They have initiated correspondence with us and have sought some clarification on the present CTM (Certification of Trade Mark) licence,” said Mr Banerjee.

Certification of Trade Mark from the Tea Board is a mandatory for all producers, manufacturers, packagers, blenders, exporters, and traders who wish to sell tea labelled as Darjeeling tea.

The certification is awarded only for teas produced by the 87 authorised Darjeeling estates or gardens and sold as single source or blended Darjeeling teas. The board gets an annual licence fee from all licence holders.

Starbucks, which bought Tazo Tea for $8.1 million to enter tea business in 1999, subsequently teamed up with McLeod Russel India (MRIL), Apeejay Tea, Warren Tea and Chamong Tee Exports to sources teas for the international market.

“It is already present in the Assam tea space. But for selling pure Darjeeling tea in their outlets they need a CTM licence,” said Mr Banerjee.

Nobody is entitled to use the word Darjeeling on packets of tea without a CTM licence, even if the teas originate from the authorised estates.

Source: ET

Tea fund gains momentum as banks pitch in

KOLKATA | COIMBATORE: The replantation and rejuvenation of the country’s ageing tea bushes under the special purpose tea fund (SPTF) scheme has gathered momentum as a consortium of four banks led by Kolkata-based Uco Bank has come forward to help the tea industry. The replanting of ageing tea bushes is the need of the hour as the domestic consumption of tea is increasing at a rate of 3-3.5%.

Estates in north India (Assam and West Bengal) are more pro-active in availing SPTF. According to a senior Tea Board official, 1,686 tea estates have availed SPTF, of which 616 are from north India. The rest 85 estates are from south India. According to the SPTF scheme, 50% of funds will come as a loan from banks, 25% will be provided by the central government as subsidy, and the rest 25% will be borne by the borrowers.

G. Boriah, director (tea development) of Tea Board told ET: “Till date, `71.74 crore has been disbursed as subsidy while `28.80 crore has been disbursed as loan. Initially, there was some problem in getting loan from banks under SPTF. But we had a discussion with Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) and things were sorted out. Now the banks are showing interest to help the tea industry under the SPTF scheme.”

Interestingly, since the financial condition of the tea sector has improved in last two years, tea companies are taking much lower amount as loans. “Sometimes it is said that SPTF has not picked up the way as was expected. Actually in the last two years, the domestic demand for tea has picked up which has resulted in price rise. The tea companies were not keen to uproot tea bushes as this would have resulted in crop loss.

Prices of tea had recovered after a gap of almost 9 years and, therefore, the tea companies were not willing to lose this opportunity. However, the replantation and rejuvenation is gradually picking up. From Tea Board we are also organising roadshows to popularise the scheme,” Mr Boriah added.

However, SPTF take-off in southern tea estates has not been encouraging. The difficult terrain, labour shortage, and region specific issues like ban on earth moving equipment in Nilgiris and certain parts falling under the disputed areas of Nilgiris-Wayanad region are the major roadblocks to make full use of the special purpose fund. The target of 2.5% per annum could not be achieved in south India due to these factors.

Source: Economic Times

Rain, pests cause more than a storm in tea industry's cup

Heavy rain, coupled with pest attacks, pulled down the bottomline of the tea industry in the first quarter.

Financial performance of tea companies – bulk and branded – together showed revenues from tea increased three per cent to Rs 1,417.33 crore while operating profit dropped 38.51 per cent to Rs 151.94 crore. Margins on tea sales declined 40.28 per cent.

“Though the first quarter is not indicative for the industry, financial performance was affected due to crop loss,” Aditya Khaitan, managing director of the world’s largest bulk tea producer, McLeod Russel India, said.

The industry has seen substantial crop loss in North Bengal and Assam. Assam saw a production decline over two successive months—May and June—in 2010. While during May, the region witnessed a three million kg loss in crop against the corresponding period of last year, June has seen the maximum loss in crop in both Assam and West Bengal.

In the first quarter, average of North Bengal and Assam tea prices was at Rs 119.12 a kg, compared to Rs 129.18 a kg. In South India, however, crop was higher than the corresponding period, which translated to a steeper drop in prices. The average price of South Indian tea during April to June stood at Rs 66.36 as against Rs 86.23 a kg. Branded tea company, Tata Global Beverages, faced severe erosion in margins as the bulk tea market made a strong opening beginning of the season.

Even as the first quarter performance looks gloomy, prices are likely to increase in the coming months on crop loss.

Stagnant production in India, shortfall in production in the quality belt of Assam and carry forward shortage should lead to firmer prices in India, said an industry representative.

“The crop situation particularly in Upper Assam (concentrated in the Doom Dooma area) has again been severely affected with nearly all the major tea groups operating in that region namely Apeejay Tea, Assam Co, M K Shah Exports, McLeod Russel and Warren Tea reporting significantly lower production,” the Indian Tea Association (ITA) said.

According to ITA estimates, July showed a further decline of two million kg of crop for the association’s members. “Even though South India was higher, the overall production in India is likely to be lower than last year,” Khaitan said.

on tea
 Growth in %
Jun ‘09 Jun ‘10 Jun ‘10 Jun ‘10 Jun ‘10
Tata Global Beverages 16.06 9.24 4.15 7.75
Mcleod Russel 25.81 15.39 1.36 1.36 -39.54
Goodricke Group 18.37 13.62 2.95 3.14 -25.53
Jay Shree Tea 27.18 18.40 -10.98 23.18 -8.20
Warren Tea 21.9 14.52 16.99 16.99 -14.84
Harrisons Malayalam 16.84 -20.91 -17.74 10.90
Assam Company India 32.54 42.78 3.55 13.78 14.68
Bombay Burmah 19.5 22.18 0.52 16.12 44.57
Asian Tea 3.07 2.62 13.48 13.48 44.00
Rossell Tea 29.92 24.71 14.72 21.19 4.83
Total for industry 17.95 10.72 2.93 8.56 79.95
LTP; Loss to profit  PTL; profit to loss *

With only five months of tea production left with the tail-end of November and December, the industry expects the year to close with a shortfall of 40 million kg, which implies that pipeline shortage at the beginning of next season would be to the tune of 90 million kg.

Source: Business Standard

Deals Brewing Over A Cuppa In Africa

When the diversified RPG Group — better known for its power, tyre and retail interests — announced last week that it is eyeing gardens in Africa to expand its tea business, it may not have raised many eyebrows among tea barons. The only question could have been that why did it take the business-savvy Goenkas, who own the conglomerate, so long to join the African party.

For an industry where acquisitions in the past decade were few and far between and limited within the country, the last nine months have witnessed a dramatic change. Indian tea companies — flush with cash following a demand-supply mismatch and fired by a new love for Africa — are furiously chasing deals in countries such as Uganda, Rwanda and the like to emerge as bigger and stronger players.

If McLeod Russel — a Williamson Magor Group company and the world's largest tea producer — set the ball rolling with its acquisition of a controlling interest in a tea factory in Rwanda in August 2009, followed by its takeover of six estates in Uganda in January this year, B K Birla-group firm Jayshree Tea & Industries has not been far behind in the deal-making game, snapping up one company in Uganda and two in Rwanda last month.

While the African buys, undertaken through wholly owned subsidiary Borelli Tea Holdings, added 16.7 million kg to McLeod's existing tea capacity raising it to about 100 million kg, Jayshree Tea gained slightly over 5 million kg through its overseas foray. Jayshree Tea produced just over 23 million kg last year through its gardens in India. Both McLeod and Jayshree, however, say that their Africa adventures have only just begun and competition is going to get stiffer from now on.

"There were eight companies vying for the Ugandan firm (Kijura Tea Company) we bought, which just goes to show the level of interest there is in Africa at the moment," Jayshree Tea managing director D P Maheshwari said.

"Uganda, particularly, may see a lot more action going forward." On his part, McLeod Russel MD & Indian Tea Association (ITA) chairman Aditya Khaitan pointed out that just about any market in Africa is up for grabs. "Opportunities are there everywhere — be it in Kenya, Malawi or even Mozambique. It is up to the entrepreneurs to decide where they want to go," he added.

So what is it about Africa that is driving the interest of Indian tea giants? Analysts say it is a combination of climate and costs. As in north India, the weather patterns in different African countries enable them to grow tea of the CTC variety, unlike India's principal rival in south Asia, Sri Lanka, which grows orthodox tea.

African teas also blend nicely with north Indian teas. More importantly, tea companies can be assured of large landholdings in Africa, "getting which is something next to impossible in India at the moment", Khaitan said. "If you consider that the bulk of the costs in a plantation is accounted for by labour, the savings accruing on this front in Africa is quite considerable," Maheshwari explained.

Dhunseri Group chairman and former ITA chief C K Dhanuka, who is also examining the viability of having a presence in Africa, said the other big attraction of that continent is that it is still possible to get gardens at "reasonable prices".

McLeod Russel, for instance, only had to shell out $25 million (excluding the debt takeover) for its acquisition of Rwenzori Tea Investments in Uganda that gave the Indian company access to 15 million kg of tea capacity in Uganda.

For the deal in Rwanda, that added 1.7 million kg to its capacity, McLeod arm Borelli Tea Holdings had to pay $2.75 million.

So is Africa going to be the potential game changer for Indian tea? Khaitan has no doubt in his mind that the continent can only spell good news for his industry even in the short-to-medium term. "The stigma about Africa is no longer there. Africa is now the place to be," he said.

Source: Times of India

Tea exports grow 22.8%

Calcutta, May 22: India’s tea exports rose 22.8 per cent to 47.2 million kg during the first three months of the year from 38.5 million kg during the corresponding period a year ago.

Favourable weather during the last few months of 2009 has boosted the total output by 14.9 per cent during January-March 2010 to 94.1 million kg from 81.9 million kg a year ago.

According to the latest statistics published by both the Tea Board of India and the Indian Tea Association, production rose 9 per cent during March to 49 million kg from 45 million kg a year earlier. Exports increased to 17.96 million kg in March from 14.22 million kg during the same period in 2009.

Output in north India rose more than 2 million kg in March against a shortfall of 2.9 million kg during the first two months of this year. Normally, production in north India drops after the winter season as the leaves are damaged by frost.

Output in the southern states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka also improved to 19.17 million kg from 17.69 million kg. Tea output was lower in Assam, while Dooars, Terai and Darjeeling have reported an increase in production.

However, production in Darjeeling and Dooars could be impacted during the coming months because of the lack of rainfall in March, experts said. But lower Assam looks promising after continuous rainfall. Production was also extended in most estates during the lean months of November and December because of high prices.

Source: The Telegraph

Further strengthening of rupee may impact tea exports: ITA

Further strengthening of the rupee against the dollar and euro may adversely impact Indian tea exports, an industry official said.

"Though the price of tea is ruling high internationally, the appreciation of the rupee against the dollar and euro is a matter of concern for exporters. This could have an impact on exports," Indian Tea Association joint secretary Sujit Patra told PTI.

India had produced 979 million kg of tea last year, out of which 200.2 million kg had been exported to about 60-65 countries at an average price of Rs 136.65 per kg.

The rupee is currently being traded at Rs 46.75 against the dollar, down from Rs 47.4 in the previous year. The rupee also appreciated against the euro and was valued at Rs 57.69 as on May 20, 2010, against Rs 65.36 on May 21, 2009.

Fierce competition already exists among exporting nations such as Sri Lanka, Kenya and China to achieve prominence in the global tea market, which is yet to recover from the recession.

"The fall in rupee could impact the margin for Indian tea exporters as the cost of production is highest in the world," Patra said.

In the first three months of the current year, India had exported 47.2 million kg of tea, up 22.8 per cent from the same period a year ago.

‘No plans to revise import duty’

The government has no plans to revise the import duty on tea in the near future, minister of state for commerce and industry Jyotiraditya Scindia said on Wednesday.

A section of the Indian tea industry has been demanding that the import duty on tea currently pegged at 100% should be reviewed in the light of massive influx of cheaper tea varieties from Vietnam and Nepal at the cost of Indian tea. “We have no plans to bring down the duty on tea import. Not currently,” Scindia said during his inaugural address at the 19th Session of Inter-governmental Group (IGG).

Clarifying the government’s stand, the minister added, “Tea production is improving. So are prices. The production is going to touch the threshold of 1 billion kg this season.”

On rebranding of Indian tea to make it more acceptable to foreign customers, the minister said a task force has been set up—of which he is the head—to provide ‘pragmatic solutions’ to the hurdles faced by the sector.

“Making tea suppliers capable of matching the global standards in the domestic and world market is essential,” Scindia said, adding that there is an urgent need to augment domestic production to compete in the world trade .

“There are lots of supply side constraints which we are trying to address through the Special Purpose Tea Fund. We are urging the industry to take up the replantation so that India could regain its number one position,” the minister said.

Scindia also discounted talk that the global economic crisis had any impact on Indian tea exports last year. “Despite the recession, tea export has been consistent and the government congratulates the industry for that,” the minister said.

India is the world's largest tea grower. It produced 960 million kg of tea in 2009-10 and exported close to 200 million kg, up from 190 million kg in 2008-09. “The government has raised the budget allocation for tea sector to Rs 800 crore in the Eleventh Plan from Rs 350 crore,” he added.

Source: Financial Express

Higher output fails to cool tea prices

Despite a higher crop output of 87 million kg in major tea producing countries — Kenya, Sri Lanka and India — prices are constant, as the cumulative deficit stands at 125 million kg.

After last year’s deficit crop, Kenya and Sri Lanka have reported a higher output of 75 million kg during January-March while south India registered an increase of 12 million kg in output for the first three months of the calendar year.

The three countries account for 80 per cent of the black tea production. Yet prices are holding out across the world markets.

Prices in Kenya and Sri Lanka have a strong undertone and are higher by 40-70 cents over last year. In India, markets have surplus plain teas at the moment, but good teas are in short supply. So, prices are higher by Rs 10-20 than the previous year.

Ullas Menon, secretary general of the United Planters Association of South India (Upasi) said, the average price of south Indian tea is Rs 111.93 a kg while last year the price was Rs 94.39 a kg. But Menon thinks it is a temporary blip.

“There is no reason for prices to fall. Kenya and Sri Lanka are seeing a bumper crop, but prices are firm. North India prices are buoyant,” he said.

Aditya Khaitan, chairman, Indian Tea Association (ITA), said prices in India would hold out.

Not just in India, figures indicate that they could hold water for world markets as well. The cumulative deficit of the last five years is to the tune of 200 million kg.

In India, production is expected at the same level as last year’s 979 million kg. Menon said since in April there was a dry spell, the crop would be at the same level as last year, even though it was significantly higher till March.

If the output remains at the same level, the season would again end with a deficit. “Each year, consumption in India grows by 30-35 million kg,” Khaitan said. Last year, there was a deficit of around 40 million kg.

Source: Business Standard

Tea production may touch one billion kg: Board

India's tea production may touch the one billion kg mark this year with the meteorological department predicting a normal monsoon, a highly-placed Tea Board of India official said here today.

"With the prediction of a normal monsoon, the production of tea during the year is likely to be in the region 990 million to one billion kg," Tea Board Chairman Basudeb Banerjee said.

Banerjee, however, said that it was difficult to predict the actual output since different regions of India receives varied degree of rainfall.

"As IMD predicts normal monsoon, the production is likely to be normal this year. However, you can't really predict since the distribution of rainfall is generally not even in India," he said.

Source: PTI

India's tea output up 9% in March

NEW DELHI: Tea production in India, the world's largest grower, rose by nine per cent to 49 million kg in March, 2010, as against 45 million kg in the corresponding month last year, the Tea Board said today.

Similarly, tea exports increased to 17.96 million kg in March from 14.22 million kg in the same period of 2009, it said.

"Production has started picking up in the northeastern region from March. We expect good output in the coming months, as small growers are focusing on plantation," an official with the Tea Board said.

There has been a slight increase in output both in North and South India, he said.

According to official data, tea production in the plains of West Bengal and Assam, which harvest the best quality tea leaves in the world, increased to 29.82 million kg in March from 27.34 million kg in the same month last year.

Output in the southern states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka also improved to 19.17 million kg from 17.69 million kg in the review period, it said.

Cumulative production of tea in the first three months of 2010 rose by 16 per cent to 94 million kg against 81 million kg a year ago, it added.

In the 2009 calendar year, India's tea output stood at 979 million kg, against 981 million kg in the previous year.

Tea production is an annual cycle. The country has 5,79,000 hectares of land under tea cultivation, of which 1.53 lakh hectares is handled by small growers.

According to the Tea Board, the country is estimated to have shipped 200 million kg in the 2009-10 fiscal, against 190 million kg in the previous year.

Source: PTI

Change in name for Tata Tea

Tata Tea has announced that it has been renamed as Tata Global Beverages Ltd, effective today, in keeping with its earlier-stated plans to diversify its product portfolio. The company said, the move “demonstrates our intent to build a new and strong global brand”.

Tata Global Beverages will consolidate all of the Tata Group’s various drinks units, retaining the existing brand names for now. The company has been looking to distinguish itself as more than just a tea company, and has been moving into the bottled water and fruit juices business.

Jay Shree Tea to acquire three firms in Africa

KOLKATA: BK Birla-controlled Jay Shree Tea & Industries (JTIL) is snapping up tea companies in the dark continent. It will soon acquire 100% ownership in Uganda-based Kijura Tea through its investment arm, Birla Holdings, Dubai.

It will also buy 60% in Rwanda-based Mata Tea and Gisakura Tea through Tea Group Investment, a 50:50 JV between Rwanda Mountain Tea-SARL and Birla Holdings, Dubai.

Rwanda Mountain Tea is a privately-owned tea company headquartered in Kigali. It has two estates within its fold, Nyabihu and Rubaya. Today, the tea sector in Rwanda consists of six state-owned production units, Gisovu, Kitabi, Mata, Mulindi, Shagasha, Gisakura and four private owned production units, Cyohoha (SORWATHE), Pfunda (Pfunda Tea Company), Nyabihu and Rubaya (Rwanda Mountain Tea).

Nshili-Kivu is another privately-owned production unit with a factory still under construction. Jay Shree Tea on Monday informed BSE about its overseas acquisition plans for which a board meeting has been called on April 28.

Incidentally, ET had reported in its April 20 edition that JTIL was poised to acquire tea estates in Rwanda and Uganda and that a board meeting would be convened on April 28 to approve these overseas acquisitions.

JTIL will be the second-largest India tea company to acquire estates in Africa. In December 2009, BM Khaitan-controlled McLeod Russel India had acquired six tea estates in Uganda with a production of 15 million kg for Rs 140 crore. The twin acquisitions are likely to lift production capacity of Jay Shree Tea to nearly 29 million kg in 2010-11 from 23.5 million kg now.

DP Maheshwari, managing director of JTIL, said: “We have already signed an agreement to acquire Kijura Tea. It will come within JTIL’s fold from May 1. We will soon sign agreements with Rwandan tea estates. The Rwandan cabinet had approved our proposal only three days ago. The total cost of acquisition will be around Rs 30 crore.”

In its notice to BSE, Jay Shree Tea said it will also consider a stock-split option at the board meeting. The notice says: “To consider and recommend sub-division (stock-split) of the present face value of the equity shares of Rs 10 each of the company into smaller denomination as the board may deem fit, subject to the approval of the members of the company and to incorporate the resolution(s) for the said sub-division and amendment in the capital clause of the memorandum of association of the company in the agenda of the ensuing AGM of the company.”

The scrip rose 5.90% to Rs 307.45 BSE after the company said its board would meet on Wednesday to consider the African acquisitions.

Source: The Economic Times

Your time, my time

For years, they have been waking up early and starting late. But India's northeast, which sees sunrise almost two hours before Mumbai, has decided it's time to set the clock right. The region's demand for a separate time zone has never been more vociferous

April is usually the cruelest month for India's northeastern states. Cyclonic storms lash the region with vengeance and rip apart homes and hopes. But in all this, the stoic people find things that keep them together and going, their famous fortitude in place.

This April, it is the loud revival of an issue that has always united the Seven Sisters. Amid the deafening thunder and incessant, deluging rains, people here are whipping up a different storm as they try to turn into a mass movement the debate for a separate time zone, something that was kicked off in the beginning of the millennium by a few scientists, academicians and media persons.

And from all accounts — with film personalities, students, engineers, even housewives and common folks joining in — the storm is gathering force and the movement gaining heavy momentum. "We are trying our best to make ourselves heard," says Samujjal Kumar Bhattacharya, president, Northeast Students' Organisation (NESO). "We hope our voices will reach the deaf ears of the mainland people."

Chipping in, Bakul Saikia, a student of the prestigious Cotton College in Guwahati, says, "The Central government has to understand the need for more than one time zone in India. Separate time zones don't divide the country or its people."

He has a point. If the sun rises in Kohima at 4 am, it rises in Mumbai two hours later. "But this two-hour time gap is completely overlooked," says R K Barman of the Assam Science Technology and Environment Council (ASTEC). "Office starts in the northeast six hours after daybreak as against four in the rest of India. Working and sleeping hours get postponed. The real clock differs from the official clock. Daylight hours are wasted, leading to higher power consumption."

The British knew better, though. The colonial rulers had set local time one hour ahead of IST for tea gardens, coal mines and the oil industry of Assam. Some of the tea gardens still follow the bagaan (garden) time.

People from the northeast have been demanding creation of a separate time zone for the seven states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura so that there is optimum utilisation of daylight. This, in turn, would result in conservation of energy. As the sun rises much earlier in this region than in the rest of the country, votaries here say it is only fair that they ask for the clock to be advanced by at least one-and-ahalf hours.

Internationally acclaimed filmmaker and former ISRO scientist Jahnu Barua says, "We are disadvantaged as far as the availability and usability of daylight and dark hours are concerned. We have gone behind by more than a decade in productivity since independence. Moreover, the total wastage of electricity at homes and offices of the region since Independence due to this is to the tune of Rs 94,900 crore."

Barua is not alone in his anxiety. It seems the entire region has woken up to the time zone call, organising a whirlwind of seminars, meetings and public addresses to drum up support for it.

In one such seminar recently in Aizawl, Mizoram chief minister Lal Thanhawla said the region suffers economically from sharing IST with the rest of the country. He added that the appeal should not be interpreted as a separatist move. "If India considers the northeast people as Indians, it must set an eastern time for the region."

Assam, too, is serious about this. Its state science and technology ministry has vowed the state will take up the issue with the Central government. The Centre, in turn, has set up a committee chaired by Ajay Mathur, the director-general of the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE), to examine the implications of another time zone in India. "The panel will primarily report on energy savings for which various options are being considered. Another time zone for the country is one of them. The report is expected to come out by January 2011," he says.

But it's not a conundrum easily solved. "There are complications and confusions involved in the process," says panel member A K Bhatnagar, who's also additional director general, India Meteorological Department. "We also have to consider the costs of implementation, changing of records and various other factors."

Ever since Independence, India has set its standard time based on its mean longitude of 82.5°E, which is five-and-a-half hours ahead of Coordinated Universal Time (abbreviated as UTC and sometimes written as Universal Time Coordinated, formerly and still widely called GMT). The IST longitude divides India into two parts, the eastern (comprising the seven states of the northeast, Sikkim, Bihar, West Bengal, Orissa and Jharkhand ) and the western part (rest of the country).

Politically, too, it is a hot potato. All said and done, a separate time zone may carry with it implications of a separate identity. With various separatist movements going on in the northeast for decades, some believe that if the region succeeds in getting a separate time zone, many could take it as a victory for their secessionist movements. Besides, a different time zone may further alienate an already alienated people from the rest of the country.

The National Physical Laboratory of India (NPL) also has reservations. P Banerjee, a senior scientist with NPL, rejected the feasibility of advancing the clock. "Instead of a separate time zone, we can advance office timings that are convenient to the (seven) states," he says. "The introduction of a Daylight Saving Time (DST) scheme for the country would solve the entire problem. Also, a separate time zone cannot be introduced arbitrarily against international conventions. Plus, there are logistical problems like keeping pace with national railway and airlines timings with two time zones."

Not that there has been no thought on the subject. In 2001, the Central government, following a PIL on the matter, set up a committee to examine the issue. While maintaining there was no need for a different time zone for the northeast, it recommended advancing office timings by a couple of hours.

In 2007, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Energy reopened debate on the need for more than one time zone in India when it mentioned the proposal in the context of saving power consumption in northeastern states. The government, those in the know say, has not shut off the issue from its mind.

The demand got a fresh impetus in the northeast when Bangladesh advanced its time by one hour in 2009, making it one-and-a-half-hours ahead of IST. The people of the region were shocked to realise that even as officegoers in the northeast reach the workplace at 10 am IST, their counterparts in Bangladesh have already completed 90 minutes of work. And Bangladesh is behind the northeast in getting daylight.

Back in 1784, when Benjamin Franklin, during his time as an American envoy to France, asked Parisians to economise on candles by waking up early to make optimum use of sunlight, it went on to become an axiom of practical wisdom and a lifestyle choice for many. More than 225 years later, the entire northeast of India is crying hoarse to make the Central government understand the meaning of Franklin's proverbial advice."

With the clamour growing, the region may just catch up on lost time.


Have you ever wondered why different cities have different sunrise and sunset times? Well, because apart from revolving around the sun, the earth is also rotating on its axis, and a place located in the east will see the sun earlier than one in the west. Earlier, time standards were local and most cities had a central clock tower which was set to noon when the sun appeared directly overhead and the shadow was the shortest. With the development of trade, the importance of standardisation of time was realised.

British railways took the first step and started using the local mean time of Greenwich as the standard time. Soon Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) became a universal standard. The earth is divided into 360 longitudes — imaginary lines running from north to south. The longitudes are distributed 180 eastward and 180 westward of Greenwich. As the earth roughly completes one rotation in 24 hours, the sun will be over each of the longitudes by turn every four minutes. In simple terms, when it is 12:00 noon at Greenwich, it will be 12:04 GMT at the 1°E longitude, because the sun has passed this longitude four minutes before Greenwich. Similarly, for a place 15°E of Greenwich, the local time will be GMT+one hour (15x4=60 minutes) and so on.

In common practice, standard time zones are defined at longitudes that are multiples of 15. As a result, the typical difference between two time zones is an hour. However, across the world, the adoption of time zones depends on various factors because standardising time, in effect, means people have to change their basic habits, which are normally in sync with the local time. Most nations maintain a balance between the economic and social implications of time standardisation as a country with a large east-west expanse will have remarkable differences in local times. For instance, India's longitudinal expanse results in a difference of 29.3° — almost two hours. To deal with this, countries like Russia, Canada and the US have multiple time zones.

Source: Times of India

Tea industry unhappy over lopsided exemptions

GUWAHATI, April 18 – Though Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, in his budget, gave certain benefits to the tea industry, the associations representing the industry are disappointed with the budget and they feel that the budget would benefit only a handful of bog gardens. The industry also felt that the Chief Minister, despite promises made earlier, failed to provide a level playing field to the tea gardens of Assam by extending the concessions given by other tea producing states of the country.

The Chief Minister announced the Government’s decision to extend the exemption of Rs 5 kg of agriculture income tax to tea exported through the Inland Container Depot, Amingaon for another year , but tea industry sources said that only a handful of gardens of the state export directly through the ICD. Sources said that at present, only around 30 million kilograms of tea is exported through ICD directly every year against the average annual production of around 450 million kilograms. That is why, the concession given by the Chief Minister would only benefit a handful of big gardens, sources added.

The exemption on entry tax on import of tea will also not be beneficial for majority of the gardens. Sources said that only a handful of major tea companies import tea from other parts of the country for blending, while, in most cases, Assam tea is taken out to other parts of the country for blending.

Before the budget, the associations representing the tea industry submitted memorandum to the Government with the request to provide a level playing field by providing the concessions given by the other tea producing states of the country, but none of the demands were fulfilled, which came as a major disappointment for the industry. Sources said that Assam is the only tea producing state to impose cess on green leaf. Among the tea producing states of the country, apart from Assam, only West Bengal had imposed cess on green leaf but because of the present health of the industry, the Government of West Bengal gave a moratorium of five years to the gardens , which has been extended by another year in this year’s budget. But instead of reducing the rates of cess as demanded by the gardens, the Assam Government decided to increase the rate of cess from 32 paisa per kilogram in the Brahmaputra valley to 40 paisa and from 29 paisa per kilogram in the Barak valley to 35 paisa.

The decision of the state government to increase the land revenue rates would also have a major impact on the gardens coming out of the slump. Sources said that the land revenue rates in Assam are the highest in the country and the decision of the Government to increase the rates with retrospective effect of five years would put serious burden on the gardens.

Meanwhile, talking to this correspondent, secretary of the Tea Association of India (TAI), Guwahati, D Deka said that the budget was disappointing for the tea industry. He said that despite repeated requests, the State Government did not provide a level playing field to the tea gardens of Assam. He said that the decision to increase the land revenue with retrospective effect would have serious consequences.

Source: The Assam Tribune

Post-Avurudu tea auctions to see low volume

Volumes for this week tea auction to be held on 20 and 21 April are likely to be low due to the holiday season and the constant showers, sources claim.

Director of Forbes and Walker Tea Brokers (Pvt) Ltd. Dilan Polonwita yesterday stated that the upcoming sales would be very moderate, with approximately 5.7 to 5.9 million kilos of tea produced.

The last tea auction that was held on 5-6 April showed only 6.1 million kg of tea, one million less in volume than the previous tea auction. He stated that proper sales could only be reaped by mid May.

"With the rainy season in tow from end March, plucking was delayed by almost five to six days. This would be a cause of low level of production," Polonwita said. "However, from the month of May, productivity will be on the rise, quantities will grow and the end result of the month would show stability in the market."

Noting that Sri Lanka was now at a crucial juncture, Polonwita stated that when assessing data of the first quarter in tea production worldwide, year-on-year growth had increased, with countries such as India, Kenya and Sri Lanka catching up to close most deficits by end May 2010.

"Right now the market is substantially strong. Tea at the lower end is currently experiencing a fairly attractive process. However, by mid or end May, the prices will begin to differ between the lower end and better quality tea and the parity between the two will widen. From May onwards we are expecting the better quality tea to command a premium."

Up until end February, crop figures indicate a 21.2 per cent increase in tea production in comparison to the figures received this year and in 2009. Year-on-year gain was 51.9 million kilos in February 2010 whereas only 30.7 million kilos were produced in the same period the year before.

Sri Lanka experienced a 28.9 million kilo deficit in 2009 December when compared to December 2008. However, Sri Lanka will be able to surpass this figure by end 2010, Polonwita said.

"Figures indicate that up until now Sri Lanka has experienced a healthy crop figure. This would help the market realise its goals this year and would undoubtedly bring in more production in volumes by end this year."

He stated that worldwide deficit in tea production was some 50 to 60 million kilos in 2009 with major tea producer countries facing a slight drop in year-on-year production. However, a larger market is expected in 2010 as a healthy demand was encountered at the beginning of the year.

Source: Daily Mirror, Sri Lanka

A treat with tea

Two years ago, in an inspired move, premier tea firm Dilmah celebrating their small beginnings in Australia and an enviable record of 21 years of growth since, invited eight of Australia’s leading chefs to take a trip to their home of tea to gain an understanding of what makes the beverage unique. Along the way they would see the efforts of Dilmah’s charity arm, the MJF Charitable Foundation particularly the Maha Ara village school in Hambantota set up to support children orphaned by the devastating tsunami in 2004.

The outcome was a culinary voyage that chartered new courses for the beverage that we Sri Lankans take so much for granted. Here is the stuff of our morning cuppa, the invigorating brew we sip with scant regard. True, we are limited by this very familiarity for seldom do we envision this very same beverage being used in ways that defy the imagination. Confronted with the challenge to discover new ways with tea, the eight master chefs from Australia surpassed themselves.

Tea encrusted Atlantic Salmon with beetroot, wasabi and a soya caramel; Cardamom and Green Tea seeped scallops, Schezuan pepper and orange pressed duck, fennel puree; Nilagama Single Estate Tea cured free range pork belly, sweet corn custard, pickled red cabbage and crab apple; Marmalade bread and butter pudding with Earl Grey infused prunes; Italian Dolce Parfait, chocolate doughnut, caramelized fig and caramel anglais tea sauce…such were the gourmet dishes they dreamed up.

This year, Dilmah will reprise that successful journey with twelve chefs and a sommelier, this time not only from Australia but from Europe , Asia and South America — the Czech Republic, Lithuania, the Maldives, India, Indonesia, New Zealand, Belgium, Poland, Chile and the Netherlands descending on Colombo to host ‘The International Tea Culinary Experience’ — a charity dinner at the Hilton on April 26. Here for a gathering of just one hundred guests they will each prepare a tea-inspired Menu Degustation drawing on the flavours of their own country and their culinary traditions, each chef catering for a table of eight. Funds raised at the charity dinner will be matched by the MJF Foundation and the target is Rs. 1 million for a programme to foster culinary entrepreneurship in the North and East, under the Foundation’s successful Small Entrepreneur Programme (SEP).

For the likes of Peter Kuruvita, who led the eight celebrity chefs on the first tea tour, it will again be a coming home to his native land where he imbibed the rich culinary traditions of his Austrian mother and Sri Lankan father growing up in the extended family home at Dehiwela. Kuruvita who runs Sydney’s trendy harbour front Flying Fish restaurant still maintains strong connections with the island and termed the opportunity to work with the Foundation a “life changing one, professionally and personally for all those who came on the first tea trip”.

Yet even for others like young chef Damien Heads from Sydney’s Pony Lounge, it was a revelation. “After bustling Colombo and the memorable journey up to the ancient royal capital, I was stunned by the sheer beauty, freshness and tranquillity of the tea plantations. It was then I understood why the Dilmah family had invited me here; to see tea as they do –one of the most versatile herbs that the goodness of nature provides.”

What struck Chef Johny Triscari who brings a Sicillian heritage to Adelaide’s gracious Chloe’s Restaurant were the children this initiative was aimed at helping. Meeting the youngsters at Maha Ara, he was touched by their resilience and spirit. “I just said cricket and we were surrounded by a sea of kids. The enthusiasm and curiosity of the children alone was enough to inspire me. But there was also so much depth in the culture and in the food of this beautiful island,” he said.

The story of their travel through the island unfolded in a television series titled ‘The Chefs and the Tea Maker’ which aired on Australian TV in 2009 following their progress as they journeyed through the tea valleys of Bogawantalawa, down to the south coast through village and plantation learning the secrets of Ceylon tea and experiencing first-hand the spontaneous warmth of village hospitality.

This April, the chefs will begin their 12-day Lankan odyssey learning about tea at Dilmah’s School of Tea. Here they will also be given an insight into the Dilmah philosophy – of making business a matter of human service. The tea firm that began with founder Merrill J. Fernando relaunching Ceylon tea under the Dilmah brand – providing pure Ceylon tea, garden fresh, unblended and packed at the source to markets abroad, has today with its phenomenal growth taken on a strong service bent and the charity dinner is part of this continuing drive.

Under the Small Entrepreneur Programme, one of its many initiatives begun in 2005 after the tsunami have emerged as many as 400 singular success stories -from a pappadam factory in Moneragala run by an enterprising young man to carpenters in Eravur and even prisoners on parole finding new livelihoods. The charity dinner funds will go to assist those in the war ravaged areas find their way as the hospitality industry so long affected begins to see a revival.

The money raised will go to support some 25 culinary entrepreneurs in Jaffna, Trincomalee, Batticaloa, Arugam Bay and Ampara — bakers, caterers, restaurateurs and stewards from amongst the most disadvantaged segments of society who will be trained, given expert assistance with the help of the Chefs Guild of Lanka, and provided equipment to start their own small business.

For the visiting chefs it is no doubt a most enjoyable challenge — drinking in the serenity of Dilmah’s Ceylon Tea Trails villas, savouring the spice aromas in the company’s cinnamon estates during their 12-day tour of the island while letting their imagination and expertise blend with local herbs, spices and traditional ingredients in each location, to produce tea inspired food and drinks – all for a most worthy cause.

The Dilmah Chefs and the Tea Maker Grand Charity Dinner will be held at the Colombo Hilton on April 26 at 7.30 p.m. The event is sponsored by Dilmah, the MJF Foundation, the Colombo Hilton, Alpha Orient Lanka Ltd and the Sunday Times.

Source: The Sunday Times, By Renuka Sadanandan

Twinings in talks with Marico for cross promotions

Premium tea brand Twinings is in talks with consumer goods major Marico India for cross promotions.

A company executive at Twinings, who is close to the development, said it was mainly looking at a promotional tie-up with Marico’s products that were pitched on health platform, such as fortified aata (wheat flour) or Saffola oil range. Twinings wants to promote its green tea variant on this health platform.

Twinings’ green tea variant contributes around 10 per cent to its India turnover and about 15 per cent to global turnover. It grows at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of about 80– 90 per cent, according to estimates.

Both companies said it was too premature to comment as the talks were still underway.

“The company’s main aim is to increase household penetration to at least 12 per cent this year and double it by next year, so this tie-up with a bigger Indian player will be profitable,” the executive said. It has a household penetration of 5 per cent. This cross promotion would include tag-on advertising with Marico in television and print media, along with a long-term tie-up with Marico’s fortified aata.

Analysts feel that this tie-up could give other tea players a run for their money, as Marico is a brand with a reasonable recall with consumers. “The tie-up fits very well for two reasons. Firstly, both companies are pitching their respective products on the health platform, which gives Twinings good visibility in the market.Also, both companies are not competitors in any product category, so there is no fear of one brand overtaking the other. So, Twinings can leverage from the brand recall that Marico’s products have,” said Purnendu Kumar, senior analyst, Technopak India.

Twinings set foot on India in 1997 and since then, has been working on its market and household penetration activities. It plans to double its Kolkata manufacturing unit’s capacity to 2,000 tonnes to cope with increased demand that went up by 10 per cent in the last one year.

Twinings also plans to add more contractors to expand in South and West, namely in Coimbatore, Pune and Cochin. For this, it has already invested around Rs 30 crore.

It was also looking at marketing some of its tea variants at a lower price point like Rs 40 for a pack of 10 bags and for this, it was in talks with global cereal foods giant Kellogg’s, the executive added. Kellogg’s recently became the first organised player to launch a breakfast cereals.

Source: Business Standard

'Tea Board should not link replanting with other sops'

The United Planters Association of Southern India (Upasi) has pointed out that growing and manufacturing of tea are different and sometimes independent operations, and the progress in one should not be taken as a yardstick to promote and subsidise the other.

To promote replanting of aged tea bushes, the Tea Board has proposed that all ongoing development schemes of the Board should be linked with the Special Purpose Tea Fund (STPF) and priority would be given to gardens/estates that had undertaken replanting activities.

STPF scheme

The STPF scheme is mainly targeted at the field activity of replanting where a subsidy of 25 per cent of the cost is borne by the Government, 50 per cent could be bank loan and the remaining 25 per cent alone needs to be borne by the field owner upfront.

The progress in the STPF would be the yardstick on which eligibility for other schemes such as quality upgradation and product diversification are measured. Progress in replanting should not be used as a criterion for extending subsidies under the Quality Upgradation and Product Diversification scheme, sources in the Upasi said.

They pointed that productivity does not depend on the age of the bush alone but extends to type of clone and the manner in which the bush has been sustained and reared. There are large tracts of aged bushes of 50 years and above that are still yield better output than bushes of 25 years where replanting could be an agriculturally feasible operation but not a commercially viable operation.


The association has taken up this matter with the Tea Board and also the Union Ministry of Commerce, highlighting the specific problems that the South Indian plantations are facing. Although several tea estates undertake growing and manufacturing activities in an integrated manner, it should not be construed as a reason for denying subsidies because they fall short of replanting targets.

Moreover, the objective for replanting subsidy is to improve the yield and quality of the green leaf while the subsidy for upgradation of manufacturing facilities is to improve the quality of tea produced. Together, this would make Indian tea competitive in global markets. Therefore, it said that upgradation of manufacturing facilities is as much needed, if not more, as replanting of tea bushes to achieve the stated objectives.

But Upasi sources pointed out that they were not against the replanting scheme per se but were averse to linking one scheme as a condition for the other.

In fact, the Upasi Tea Research Foundation had carried out a survey on South Indian plantations which identified that 14,650 hectares or 13 per cent of the total area was in need of replanting. The association had suggested that replanting be carried out in a 20-year period, covering approximately 0.65 per cent of the total area a year.

Source: Business Line

Lack of rain likely to hit first flush production

Kolkata: Harvest during the first flush of tea in Darjeeling and Dooars, which produces the finest variety of the crop, is likely to get hit owing to lack of rainfall during March this year. But the lower Assam crop looks promising after continuous rainfall in March.

The Tea Board of India held a meeting with the Darjeeling Tea Association representatives on Friday to take stock of the situation. “Although there was a little dry spell at the beginning it has started raining in Darjeeling from yesterday,” said Basudeb Banerjee, chairman of the Tea Board of India.

“We will be happy with 9 million kg production this year in Darjeeling,” Banerjee said. Last year, Darjeeling produced around 8.2 mkgs.

Production in Darjeeling has been a little delayed this year as the leaves took longer to sprout due to lack of rainfall at the initial stage. “This will have a cascading effect on the second flush,” said Sandeep Mukherjee, secretary of the Darjeeling branch of Darjeeling Tea Association.

The industry feels that the lull period or ‘bungee period’ between the first and second flush is likely to delay the harvest during second flush which is due in May.

While first flush is 20% of the total production in Darjeeling, second flush is also of the similar amount. “We think there will be a 35% drop in the production of first flush,” said Datta.

According to S Patra, secretary of the Indian Tea Association (ITA), the tea gardens in the north have been keen on maintaining the quality of the produce. “There could be a drop in quantity but not in quality,” said Patra.

Weather conditions in upper Assam has not been favourable during March. Moreover, the crop was also hit by helopeltis and red spider mites. Areas like Bibrugarh and Tingri have received considerable rainfall during March. Rainfall in places like Mangaldai in lower Assam was also favourable during the period.

“There has been erratic weather condition in last few years with too much of precipitation at times and long dry spells. Since it has started raining in Darjeeling already, the crop will not be affected much,” said Banerjee.

Source: Financial Express

New season tea hits market; costlier by Rs 20-30 a kg

After a two-week delay, the new season tea has started trickling into the market, at a price that is Rs 20-30 a kg more than in the previous season.

The industry expects prices to remain at the same level till July. While March was a dry month, Assam is experiencing good rain at present.

However, like last year, the current season is expected to end with a deficit. Aditya Khaitan, chairman, Indian Tea Association, said: “The season started with a deficit of 50-60 million kg. Moreover, consumption increases 30-35 million kg every year worsening the situation.”

To make up for the deficit, India would have to produce 100 million kg more, which is unlikely. Last year, production was around 980 million kg against 978 million kg the previous year.

Also, the government’s uprooting and replanting programme is gaining ground. So, uprooting will result in 2 per cent less crop. “Every year, we will have 2 per cent less crop,” said a source.

However, the industry does not expect prices to hit the roof.

Sources in Tata Tea, one of the major buyers at auctions, said prices at the end of the year could see a slight dip.

The first flush normally sees the steepest increase in prices. “Last year, first flush prices were not that high. So, they are seeing a correction now. Year-end prices, which were very high last year, are also likely to see a correction this year,” said industry sources.

Last year was an unusual year, when major tea producing nations, like Kenya and Sri Lanka, witnessed unprecedented shortage. However, tea production in Kenya this year is forecast to be higher by 15 per cent.

In India, too, weather conditions are much better and production is expected to be at the same level as last year. The season started about two to three weeks later than usual due to a dry spell. North India witnessed dry weather conditions in March, which led to a delayed crop.

Source: Business Standard

Quite Interesting facts about tea

A quietly intriguing column from the brains behind the BBC quiz show. This week: QI on tea.

If a man has no tea in him, he is incapable of understanding truth and beauty. JAPANESE PROVERB

Tea is an infusion of the dried leaves, flowers and buds of the Camellia sinensis plant. It originated in south?east Asia on the borders of northern Burma and southern China. It now grows in 52 countries. The world's oldest cultivated tea tree is more than 3,200 years old and is found in Yunnan province in south-west China. After water, tea is the most often drunk drink in the world. The best quality tea grows up high. When tea plants are harvested only the top two inches are picked: these are called flushes. During the growing season a new flush grows every seven to 10 days.

The English fashion for tea drinking began in the early 18th century, driven by the British East India Company which had established a monopoly over its import in 1686. This lasted until 1834. No European then had any idea how tea was grown, dried or blended. They simply imported it from China. Tea (until Victorian times the English upper classes pronounced it "tay" and even spelt it "the") was drunk at the table over civilised conversation and needed lots of paraphernalia to drink it, like porcelain teacups and teapots and special spoons. When Addison and Steele's daily Spectator was launched in 1711 they advised that it should be considered "part of the tea-equipage".

Most Indians hadn't tasted tea before the mid-19th century. The British East India Company started commercial tea production in the 1820s, planting a Chinese variety high in the hills of Darjeeling. At the same time, Major Robert Bruce found tea plants growing wild in the Assam region of north-east India. It was found to be a separate variety of Camellia sinensis and made a particularly dark, rich tea. India is now the world's second largest tea producer after China, and the home market consumes two-thirds of the annual crop. All areas other than Darjeeling now grow the Assam variety.

Earl Grey
Because tea was such a valuable commodity, demand regularly outstripped supply and adulteration was widespread. Twigs, sawdust and iron filings were commonly added; in 1770 one village near London was quoted as producing more than 20 tons of adulterated material a year for supply to tea merchants. Their recipe was ash leaves boiled with sheep dung (for colour). In some cases the adulterants were added for flavour as well as bulk.

Earl Grey tea is flavoured with the rind of the bergamot orange, a fragrant citrus fruit. It was named after the second Earl Grey, British Prime Minister 1830-34. Jacksons of Piccadilly claim Lord Grey handed them his recipe, based on an old Chinese version. This is unlikely, as he never visited China and bergamots don't grow there. It is more likely the Earl Grey blend developed out of necessity, to spin out one of the regular shortages in supply from China.

Philosopher Jeremy Bentham kept a teapot called Dickey as a pet. A cult in Malaysia worships a giant teapot, as it symbolises "the healing purity of water". The world's
oldest operating petrol station, in Zillah, Washington State, is shaped like a teapot.

There are about a quintillion atoms in a teaspoon of sugar (that's 1 followed by 30 zeros). Alternatively, you could use the teaspoon to hold 2,000 carrot seeds. If the empty space were removed from the constituent atoms, the entire population of the planet could be compressed into the same space as a sugar cube (but it would weigh 10 billion tons).

By Molly Oldfield and John Mitchinson

RPG develops tech for orthodox tea

Kochi: RPG group company Harrisons Malayalam Limited (HML) has built up capacity to convert more than half of its annual tea production into orthodox tea with the commissioning of the new orthodox manufacturing facility at Wallardie tea factory in Vandiperiyar on Tuesday, HML sources said.

HML is south India’s largest cultivator of tea and a prominent exporter. HML had inaugurated a similar facility in its Chundale factory outlet in Wayanad a few months back.

Wallardie factory orthodox facility is second in line as part of HML’s plan to be versatile in its ability to do CTC and orthodox tea manufacture to exploit higher prices in favour as per market conditions. Cost reduction from the functioning of the new factories and the ability to convert more tea into orthodox should help the company increase its revenues, HML sources said.

HML also buys green leaf to maximise the capacity utilisation of its tea factories. Wallardie factory has a capacity to process 50 tonne of green leaf per day and an annual capacity of 3.5 million kg of tea. The capital outlay is about Rs.4.6 crore and the pay back is less than a year.

The factory has state-of-the-art machinery aiding automation and quality control. HML Wallardie orthodox teas are exported to Russia, Middle East and European countries. Wallardie orthodox facility will also enable HML to pay good prices to the small growers and suppliers of good quality green leaf.

Retail sales of its branded tea are also expected to increase significantly with the company focusing on extending its distribution network to Goa, Orissa and Maharashtra. The company had a turnover of Rs 291 crore in 2008-09 as against Rs 204 crore in 2007-08.

Source: Financial Express

Twinings Tea launches "Royal Tea"

Twinings India, a part of Associated British Foods (ABF), United Kingdom, has launched Royal Tea. The company said that new "Royal Tea" contained full flavoured blend of Assam and South Indian teas

As the name suggests, Twinings Royal Tea offers you an enchanting tea drinking experience.

Twinings Royal Tea is initially available in all high-end retail outlets, grocery stores; supermarket in major cities including Delhi, NCR, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Pune, Kolkata, Chandigarh, Lucknow and Ahmedabad.

Source: FnB News

Goodricke owner enters financial services business

Kolkata: UK’s Camellia Plc, which enjoys a 74% stake in tea major Goodricke Group, is teeing off banking and financial services operations in the country for the first time through its London-based wholly owned subsidiary Duncan Lawrie Ltd.

The group, which got the green signal from the Reserve Bank of India for launching the financial services business, opened its first representative office in Kolkata on Tuesday.

With core interests in tea, the UK group has lined up plans to increase its tea production in the country through the acquisition route.

It proposes to raise production from 33 million kg to 50 million kg through acquisitions of tea estates in Assam.

PJ Field, chairman, Goodricke Group, said on the sidelines of the company’s annual general meeting, “Through the representative office, high networth individuals (HNIs) could invest in stocks that are listed in UK and the whole of European region. We will also help them to invest in stocks listed in the US and Far East to some extent.”

Field, who is also the MD of Camellia’s banking and financial services and heads Duncan Lawrie, said, “We want to test the Indian market before we expand our footprint in the country.”

Duncan Lawrie is a private bank that provides service to individuals, companies, charities and trusts. It offers services such as investment management, financial planning, offshore services and trust and estate planning.

On the tea business in India, A N Singh, MD & CEO of Goodricke Group, said, “The group’s total production is 33 million kg as of now. We are interested to acquire tea estates in Assam and will acquire estates at the right time and opportunity. The aim is to achieve 50 million kg in the shortest possible time.”

Meanwhile Goodricke has decided to increase its presence in instant tea and packet tea categories.

According to the CEO, the company has set a target to increase its packet teas from 6 million kg at present to 10 million kg by 2012.

Source: DNA

Goodricke sees 2010 tea output at 21 mln kg-exec

KOLKATA, April 13 (Reuters) - Tea plantation firm Goodricke Group (GDRC.BO: Quote, Profile, Research) expects to produce 21 million kg of tea during 2010, compared with 19.5 million kg in 2009, a senior official said on Tuesday.

"The climate is better this year compared to last year, so we should touch 21 million kg this year. Our export target for the current year is at 2 million kg as against 1.8 million kg last year," Chief Executive Officer A.N. Singh told reporters.

The Kolkata-based company, which owns 17 tea gardens across tea growing regions of Darjeeling, Dooars and Assam, is planning to scale up its instant-tea and packet tea business in big way in the present year, he said.

"We have exported 200 tonnes of instant tea during 2009 and this year it is expected to touch 300 tonnes. We are working on launching it across India in a big way by the end of this year," Singh said.

Currently, the company has an installed capacity to produce 600 tonnes of instant tea per annum, he added.

Goodricke sold 6 million kg of packet tea last year and the figure is expected to touch 10 million kg over the next two years, he said.

Goodricke expects the tea prices to trade at 10-15 rupees per kilogram higher during 2010 on rising consumption and demand-supply mismatch, Singh said.

"Currently, the tea prices are trading in the range of 135-150 rupees per kilogram, which is 10-15 rupees higher compared to same period last year. This trend is expected to continue in the remaining part of the season," he said.

Due to adverse weather conditions, India's total production in 2009 stood at 979 million kg, compared with 981 million kg a year ago, according to Tea Board data.

This, coupled with global crop shortage, pushed tea prices up 30 percent on an average during 2009. (Reporting by Niladri Bhattacharya; Editing by Prem Udayabhanu)

Source: Reuters India