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
Source: Telegraph.co.uk

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

Tea workers in Assam to get incentive

The Assam tea industry has revised the incentives for tea-leaf plucking for workers in Brahmaputra Valley. The decision came just a couple of months after wage revision of tea garden workers by the industry.

The decision was arrived at a meeting between representatives of the tea industry from Indian Tea Association (ITA), Tea Association of India (TAI), Bharatiya Chah Parishad (BCP), Assam Tea Planters’ Association (ATPA) and North Eastern Tea Association (NETA) and Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha (ACMS) in Dibrugarh in Upper Assam.

At the meeting it was agreed that minimum plucking task during ‘ticca’ period (which is generally from June to October) would be revised from 21 kgs to 23 kgs per day from the upcoming season.

The incentive for extra leaf plucking, for output above minimum task of 23 kgs, was enhanced in two slabs, with a view to affectiing improvement in productivity. First, anything plucked extra than 23 kgs to average output of the garden would be paid 55 paise per kg. And, anything plucked above the average output of the garden would be paid Re. 1 per kg.

Average output of the garden is arrived at by dividing green leaf harvest during ticca period of last three consecutive year by man-day’s deployed for plucking during the same period.

It was also decided at the meeting to revise the additional compensation for factory workers to Rs. 3 per day with effect from ‘ticca’ period commencing from plucking season of 2010.

ACMS had been demanding revision of the plucking rates applicable to daily rated workers engaged in plucking in tea estates in Brahmaputra Valley, the last revision having been affected on March 27, 1993.

Tea industry sources present at the meeting told Business Standard that the issue of improvement of productivity was discussed at length, and after protracted discussions the settlement of revision of incentives was reached.

Sources said that the employers’ association expressed concern at the growing trend of absenteeism of permanent workers and discussed ways and means with ACMS to curb the trend. ACMS, the workers association, agreed to co-operate with the garden managements in their effort to reduce absenteeism.

In February this year the Assam tea industry had increased tea wages for workers of Brahmaputra Valley by Rs. 18 in three phases and with retrospective effect from January 1 this year.

Source: Business Standard

Tea Pickers' Daughters Reap Gains in Indian State

For decades, the Indian state of Kerala has been approving pro-women measures. Last year 10 percent of the state's budget went to programs for girls and women. A tea picker says her daughter benefits.

MUNNAR, India (WOMENSENEWS)--Kalaiselvi has spent more than three decades working on a tea plantation in Munnar, a verdant, river-ringed town in a mountainous region called the Western Ghats.

Each morning after dawn breaks, she and a group of other female tea pickers don headscarves and protective vests and troop single file from their simple, one-story homes to the hillside tea fields. They pluck oblong tea leaves with lightning-quick fingers, filling their baskets and bags while chatting and laughing as the sun rises.

"We harvest tea as a group of 40 to 60 women, and that's what makes it enjoyable," said Kalaiselvi, who spoke to Women's eNews through an interpreter. "Still, I'm glad my daughter is in school and not in the fields with me. Because she was able to get a better education, she is attending nursing school while I only finished ninth grade. She has more choices and will likely have a better life."

In recent decades, Kalaiselvi's native state, Kerala, has instituted measures to improve female education, health and economic security.

The state reintroduced delivery services in hospitals that no longer offered them; doubled the size of state government pensions for widows; and eliminated a ban on widows receiving pensions if they had male offspring over the age of 20. The changes have inspired similar measures elsewhere in India.

After India's Parliament passed the Women Against Domestic Violence Act in 2005, Kerala was one of the first states to implement the law, creating counseling centers and hiring "women protection officers" to aid survivors of violence.

But rights advocates still noticed that many programs for women that made it into the state budget were not implemented. To rectify that, they pushed through the creation of the Kerala Gender Board in January 2009, which ensures that 10 percent of state-funded programs benefit girls and women directly.
Board Spurs Female-Friendly Initiatives

The Gender Board has helped to spur the opening and expansion of maternity care centers, job training programs and anti-violence initiatives in the past year. Board members also make sure that women play a vital role in creating and running the programs that are designed to benefit them.

Headed by Kerala's Health and Social Welfare Minister and headquartered in the state capital of Trivandrum, the board has 18 members. Two are female legislators and one is a member of the Kerala State Women's Commission. The board meets monthly to keep tabs on women's initiatives that are starting--or already established--in the state.

The creation of Kerala's Gender Board was a landmark move in India. Even though the national economy is rapidly developing, many women do not receive an education or the chance at paid work that affords a comfortable standard of living.

Only 54 percent of Indian woman are able to read, compared to 75 percent of Indian men, according to the New Delhi-based National Literacy Mission. Women are just 10 percent of India's Parliament, which means India ranks 99th among 187 countries in this measure, lagging behind neighboring Pakistan and Afghanistan, reports the Geneva-based Inter-Parliamentary Union.

India's Equal Remuneration Act of 1936 promises equal wages for equal work, but men employed by Indian companies earn an average $3,698 annually while their female counterparts earn less than one third of that, or $1,185, according to the Geneva-based World Economic Forum.

Women's advocates say things are comparatively better in Kerala, which is 55 percent Hindu, 25 percent Muslim and 20 percent Christian. The state has a long tradition of women participating in education, commerce, politics and the arts.

Kerala says it boasts India's top-ranked literacy rate for women (88 percent); its highest sex ratio (1,058 women to every 1,000 men); and its longest average female lifespan (76 years, versus 65 years in the rest of the country).

The maternal mortality rate in the country is 301 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, according to the Indian government, though the World Health Organization's estimate is 450. Government statistics put Kerala's maternal mortality rate at 262 per 100,000 live births--significantly lower than the national average.

Tea pickers in Munnar earn $734 per year, which Selin Mary, a spokesperson for Kalaiselvi's employer, says is high for agricultural workers and on par with what male workers earn.

"Part of the reason these women's pay is so good," she said, "is that the firm running this plantation--the Kanan Devan Hills Plantations Company--employs many women, is 70 percent employee-owned and has a woman heading its workers' collective. Also important is the fact that our tea pickers live and work in Kerala."

T.N. Seema, a member of the Gender Board and president of the All India Democratic Women's Association, a New Delhi-based organization that promotes women's rights, still sees plenty of room for improvement though.

"Kerala's women are better off than many, but they are still concentrated in low-wage-earning sectors like tea picking," Seema said. "Women should have better job training and should be equipped to work in professions other than those traditionally earmarked for females."

During a break from her work in the fields of Munnar, Kalaiselvi said she agrees.

"Our daughters and granddaughters can get an education, medical treatment and government benefits that older generations never enjoyed," she said. "Even so, we hope they will also have the opportunity to have professional careers, whether they choose to leave the green hills of Munnar or whether they choose to stay."

Molly M. Ginty (http://mollymaureenginty.wordpress.com) is a freelance writer based in New York City.
For more information:

Kerala State's Women's Commission:

All India Democratic Women's Association:

Source: womensenews.org

A storm in Aussie teacups

WE ALL like to know where our wine and cheese comes from but what about our favourite cuppa?

A team of Australian researchers is developing a way to trace the contents of a teapot back to the garden where it was grown.

Determining the origin of a food can help decode important biosecurity riddles, especially if there is a problem with the quality or freshness of goods exported overseas.

But it can also sort the real from the replica when it comes to foods specific to geographic locations, said head of the study Winthrop Professor John Watling.

He said about three times the amount of Darjeeling tea was sold as the real thing when compared with plantation production rates.

"Methods pioneered at the centre were so accurate that it was possible to know the plantation on which the tea was grown," said Professor Watling, from the University of Western Australia. "When stuff comes into the country, we would like to believe that what we are paying for is what we are getting."

Professor Watling said provenance technology was a critical part of protecting Australia's reputation for being "clean, green and environmentally conscious".

Since the tea study began, staff at the university's Centre for Forensic Science had reported some companies to the Office of Fair Trading.

"We're not a law enforcement authority but our studies are made available to police authorities," Professor Watling said.

Ray Fien, of Australian company Madura Tea, said it was unfair that other companies were passing off other varieties of tea as Darjeeling, which is considered a premium variety with a premium price tag.

"It's cheating the public. You could do the same with white tea – a lot of people are selling green tea as white tea," he said.

In some situations it was acceptable to blend tea varieties "for consistency" but they shouldn't be labelled as pure strains, he said.

Chevy Kwok, owner of Taka Tea in Sydney, said the company ordered through a wholesaler but was confident it received pure Darjeeling tea.

About 10 million tonnes of genuine Darjeeling tea is harvested in India each year, with the bulk of the imitation tea coming from Sri Lanka and Kenya.

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald
By: Melissa Singer

Tea plucking rate revised

Guwahati, April 9: Garden labourers in Assam will now have to pluck 23kg compared to 21kg earlier and will get an incentive of 55 paise per kg.

An agreement to this effect was signed between the Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha and the tea industry at the BCP Hall in Dibrugarh at the end of a two-day meeting that concluded today.

The tea industry was represented by five employers’ associations — the Indian Tea Association, the Tea Association of India, the Bharatiya Cha Parishad, the Assam Tea Planters’ Association and the North Eastern Tea Association.

The employees were represented by the Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha.

The employees’ forum has been demanding a revision of plucking rates engaged in Brahmaputra Valley estates, as the last revision was done in March 27, 1993.

To improve productivity, the new incentive will be enhanced for output above minimum task of 23kg, in two slabs.

The incentive earlier was 27 paise per kg if they plucked more than 21kg.

For the first time, a new category of garden output has been added to the incentive slab.

If a worker plucks 24kg to the average output of the garden, he or she would be given an incentive of 55 paise per kg.

The average output of the garden will be calculated on the basis of the past three years (2007-09).

An incentive of Re 1 per kg will be awarded if a worker plucks more than the average output of the garden.

The meeting also expressed concern on the growing absenteeism and agreed to jointly address the issue.

A source said the ACMS has decided to opt for counselling the workers to control absenteeism.

Source: The Telegraph

Tata Tea, Pepsi in pact

Tata Tea has signed up with cola company PepsiCo Inc to explore the potential of forming a joint venture that will focus on non-carbonated ready-to-drink beverages in the health and wellness category.

“Definitive agreements for the joint venture are intended to be finalised over the next few months,” Tata Tea said in a notice to the BSE on Friday. Information on the contours of this proposed venture was not available either from the Tata group company or PepsiCo India.

Analysts surmise that the deal between the US company and Tata Tea, which owns the Tetley brand, is likely to be a global alliance as the tie-up has been announced with PepsiCo India’s parent. Analysts expect PepsiCo, which has a strong distribution network overseas and in India, will push Tata Tea’s wellness beverages in the ready-to-drink category such as iced teas, water and herbal and fruit infusions.

Over the past few years, Tata Tea has transformed itself from a plantation player to a branded beverages company that aspires to compete with the likes of Coca-Cola.

“PepsiCo has a robust distribution network and Tata Tea is keen to sell its ready-to-drink formats. Eventually one can imagine PepsiCo selling Himalayan water, iced teas and even T!ON (a fruit and tea-based drink launched in South India),” said Motilal Oswal’s senior vice-president Amnish Aggarwal. It makes sense for both the companies to enter the joint venture as they will find it difficult to pursue growth on their own in the health and wellness categories.

Source: The Telegraph

ANSTGA plea to release subsidy

Underscoring the grievances faced by tea growers in Nagaland, the All Nagaland Small Tea Growers’ Association (ANSTGA) has urged the Tea Board of India to release the subsidy with regard to those tea growers who were already inspected and found genuine and to conduct the second phase of inspection/verification at the earliest for the interest of the tea growers.

The association in a press statement by its president, D. Hukiye Kibami pointed out that the association since its formation in February 2009 has been taking full initiative to sought disposal of the pending plantation subsidy under 10/5 plan from the Tea Broad of India. And accordingly, in April 2009 the board issued the concept paper to the Government of Nagaland, for which the association took the initiative to meet the team leader- The APC Government of Nagaland, however despite many attempt the association could not meet the team leader due to tight schedule, the association stated. It also alleged that except the team leader, the ANSTGA met all the other officials mentioned in the concept paper and the chief secretary of Nagaland and submitted a representation with regard to the issue of the Tea growers of Nagaland. However, despite best and all possible effort the Government of Nagaland failed to take any initiative to conduct the screening of the tea growers for the purpose of tea board subsidy, ANGSTA stated. The association said that it was only in January 2010 the Tea Board of India considering the plight of the tea growers of Nagaland conducted the first phase of physical verification/inspection as proposal (B) of the concept paper.

Meanwhile, the ANGSTA has inducted former MLA, Shami Angh as the advisor of the association.

Source: Nagaland Post

Tea output rises 18% in February

India’s tea production grew 18 per cent to 17.9 million kg in February 2010 over the same month last year, the Tea Board said today.

The country produced 15.2 million kg tea in February 2009. Tea exports increased marginally to 12.2 million kg in February as against 12.1 million in the same month last year. Cumulative production of tea in the April-February period of 2009-10 rose over 22 per cent at 45 million kg against 36.8 million kg in the year-ago period.

Exports during the 11-month period increased to 182.2 million kg from 176.4 million kg in the same period of FY09. In value terms, exports of tea moved up nearly 7 per cent to Rs 160.06 crore in February, while they rose 14.13 per cent in April-February to Rs 2,504.70 crore from the corresponding period of the previous financial year.

During February, the average price of tea moved up nearly 6 per cent to Rs 130.75 a kg, while it increased 10.45 per cent to Rs 137.41 a kg in the April-February period of FY10, the board said. Also during the month, tea production in north India fell by almost half to 1.5 million tonnes from 3 million tonnes in the previous year, while south India saw an increase of 4.2 million tonnes to 16.4 million tonnes.

In the 11-month period, production in north fell by 2.9 million tonnes to 10.2 million tonnes, while it rose by 11.1 million tonnes to nearly 35 million tonnes in south India.

Source: BusinessStandard

Nepal tea spoils Darjeeling Tea

Calcutta, April 3: Bad news for Darjeeling tea lovers. Your favourite brand of tea, the world’s most expensive and exotic beverage in the category, may not be pure Darjeeling crop always.

According to industry insiders, a few varieties of Nepalese tea, which could pass for the coarser grades of the Darjeeling variety, are mixed and sold in the domestic market as Darjeeling tea.

Smuggled Illam (Nepal tea), both orthodox and CTC, enters the tea district through the porous border on mule back.

The first two flushes of the Darjeeling crop in April and June produce the best flavour and command the highest prices. The quality deteriorates from then on.

According to Tea Board statistics, the annual production is about 10 million kg but the annual sales figure is much more.

A major part of the annual production of Darjeeling tea is exported. The key buyers of Darjeeling tea are Germany, Japan, the UK, the US and other EU countries such as the Netherlands and France.

Industry sources said the Nepal crop cost half of the Darjeeling variety and was a favourite with retailers as it helped them sell tea close to that of Darjeeling at a much lower price. But industry sources admit it was difficult to ascertain the amount of Nepal tea entering the Indian market. At a few retail counters in Calcutta, Nepal tea is available at Rs 400-500 per kg, while Darjeeling orthodox of a similar quality would cost around Rs 1,000 per kg.

The Indian Tea Association (ITA) estimates show that almost 6.5 million kg of tea has been imported from Nepal during the January-October period last year. According to a vision 2020 report of the Nepal Tree Crop Global Development Alliance, almost a million tonnes of orthodox Nepal tea enter India.

“It is not new. But the quantity has come down to a great extent in recent times. After Darjeeling tea has been registered as GI (geographical indication), the Tea Board and other industry associations have been monitoring all the Darjeeling tea gardens very carefully, so that buyers get pure Darjeeling tea,” Sujit Patra, joint secretary of ITA, said.

After the GI registration in France and the US, Darjeeling tea is officially placed in the same category as Cognac or Champagne — other famous GIs. The unique geographical conditions of Darjeeling help make its teas such a rarity. Just the way Cognac and Champagne are rare because they can only come from specific regions of France.

Recently, Tea Board chairman Basudeb Banerjee had said Nepal leaves used to come into Darjeeling. “But we have been very strict on this and that has stopped,” he said.

Under an Indo-Nepal treaty, produce from Nepal can legally come into India at zero duty.

While the Tea Board claims it has been successful in stopping the Darjeeling gardens from buying tea from Nepal to maintain the quality of their tea, there is no provision to stop bought-leaf factories from buying tea from Nepal.

Source: The Telegraph

Surviving as tea seller, Indian writer keeps passion alive

by Hemlata Aithani

NEW DELHI, April 7 (Xinhua) -- Brewing steaming cup of tea by roadside is what he does for earning his livelihood. But writing books is what he lives for. The 55-year old Laxman Rao is a unique story in himself.

A graduate from Delhi University, he rides to his shop everyday on a bicycle carrying his books in one bag and a saucepan, tealeaves, sugar, milk and plastic cups in another.

Everyday, one p.m. is when he reaches Digambar road in the heart of Delhi where some of India's major English newspaper houses are located, and sets up his shop by the road under the canopy of an old banyan tree.

The stall comprises a stove, a stone slate to sit on and a plastic sheet to spread his book titles on. For his customers, he would quickly make a sitting bench by placing a wooden plank on two bricks each on either ends.

Rao is a multi-tasking man. While preparing milky tea, he engages his customers by his jovial talks about his books on display and the ones in the offing.

He said he had written 21 books so far. But no publisher agreed to take his work.

His first book entitled "Nayi Duniya Ki Nayi Kahani", written in 1979, narrates his early days struggle as a laborer or a waiter in a tea stall. It took him two years to write this book. It was followed by a play "Pradhanmantri" (Prime Minister) in 1984. The book was an outcome of his meeting with the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

"It's one of the most memorable days of my life. I wanted to write a book on Indira Gandhi but she said many books had been written on her and he should rather write on administration.

So "'Pradhanmantri' came into being highlighting the corrupt administration surrounding a prime minister," said Rao.

All his books are based on real life stories. It was one such incident that shook the writer in his childhood. A young boy, Ramdas, was drowned while taking a bath. The shock was overpowering and could be dealt with only when he expressed himself through pen and paper.

It was his first brush with literary writing but reading literary works was not new to him. He was quite fond of reading while he was in school and had read already many books in Hindi literature though he had Marathi language background.

Born on July 22, 1954 in a family of farmers in Amravati district of Maharashtra state, he began working in a local spinning mill in 1973 and after its closure switched to farming to help his father.

But this did not last long. "This was not what I was inclined and perhaps destined to do. There was something more compelling to be done," reminisced Rao.

So with just 40 rupees in his pocket he left home at the age of 21 to explore the outer world. He boarded a train but with that money could barely reach Bhopal in central India. There he worked as a laborer without ceasing his sharp observation of his surroundings and its people. It was his observation here of a poor girl adopted by a rich family upon the death of her parents became the subject matter of his book 'Narmada'. In three months he had saved enough to continue his journey, now this time to Delhi.

Upon reaching the capital he survived by cleaning dishes in restaurants. "After saving a decent amount I started selling cigarettes and beetle nut leaves before I opened a tea stall in 1985," recalls Rao.

He has been selling tea by the roadside during the day, writing books at night in the past 25 years.

Money earned through the sale of books 300 rupees (six U.S. dollars) each was spent to reprint and publish new ones through his own publishing house Bharatiya Sahitya Kala Prakashan.

The sale of his books was not very encouraging earlier. But now everyday he is able to sell at least four copies of his books to school libraries and a book a day at his roadside book "cafe".

Now he has enough money to publish two more books 'Ahankar' and 'Gandhi'. He may not be making big money like other successful writers, but he is getting enough recognition.

"All these years I was just struggling to keep my passion alive to establish myself as a writer. I think I have reached the milestone and can call myself a writer and not a chaiwallah (tea seller)," said Rao.

With a happy family by his side, he has no qualms with life. But he does occasionally dream of having a little better life without having to think where his next meal would come from if he doesn't sell tea.

Source: Xinhuanet

Tea output rises 23%; exports up 11% in Jan-Feb

C.J. Punnathara

Kochi, April 7

The year has begun on a promising note for the tea sector, with production growing 17 per cent in February. The volume and value of exports as well as unit value realisations increased last fiscal.

Falling trend

However, the growth in tea production has not been uniform, with production from all the northern regions – Assam Valley, Cachar, Darjeeling, Dooars and Terai – witnessing falling trends over last year. Production spurts have been reported from the southern regions of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala.

Tea production increased to 17.9 million kg (mkg) in February against 15.3 mkg last year. The output in the first two months increased 23 per cent to 45.1 million kg.

Reason for spurt

The sharp increase in production was backed by output from South Indian plantations rising 11 mkg. North Indian production fell 2.9 million kg.

The primary reason for the spurt in production in South India during January-February was the absence of frost during the winter months and fairly good showers during December, resulting in the sprouting of new leaves in the succeeding period, sources in United Planters Association of Southern India (Upasi) said.

Production is unlikely to rise any further due to the absence of rains and the scorching heat during March. Fairly widespread rains were reported from the planting regions of Kerala and isolated pockets in Tamil Nadu last week, which could augur well for the April crop, sources added. Although export volumes remained relatively unchanged in February, the January-February months recorded smart gains. Export during the first 11 months of the 2009-2010 fiscal grew 2.5 per cent in volume to 182 mkg (176 mkg).

This was backed by a good rally in global prices and the unit value realisations increased over 10 per cent. As the unit value rose to Rs 137 (Rs 124), the export realisation moved up 14 per cent to Rs 2,504.70 crore during the 11-month period.


Domestic prices will depend partly on the north India production trends in the coming months and the direction of global prices, sources in the UPASI said. Backed by good rains, both Sri Lankan and Kenyan tea production is expected to be robust this year. Although tea prices have eased marginally in the recent past, future trends will emerge as estimates of global output become available.

Source: Business Line

Assam comes on India Inc radar

Kolkata: The North-East was never high on the corporate radar because of its insurgency-related issues and lack of infrastructure.

But things are changing now. Assam seems to be the next big-ticket investment destination for corporates if one scans the member list of the state’s newly-formed investment advisory board.

The state is wooing investments worth Rs 100,000 crore over the next five years and around Rs 35,000 crore alone could be channeled into riverways with 20 ports planned from Dhubri to Dibrugarh.

Development is slated to take place in six key areas — infrastructure, agri and agri-value-added services, housing, healthcare, education.

The entire development is proposed to be non/low carbon and all the major infrastructure players could be roped in.

Tatas alone, said sources, could bring in large investments in the state. It is learnt that Tata Housing has recently signed two MoUs with the Assam state government for setting up commercial and residential projects that will include an eco-city in which investments could go up to Rs 5,000 crore. DNA caught up with various government officials and corporate houses for a closer view of things.

Ranjit Barthakur, who pioneered the Assam Investment Advisory Board, said, “The Tatas are likely to invest another Rs 300-400 crore in their education and hospitality projects…The first Tata Institute of Social Sciences campus outside Mumbai is coming up in Guwahati.”

Guwahati’s first five-star hotel, Vivanta by Taj group is also on the anvil. In fact, Tata Group head, during first Assam Investment Advisory Board meet earlier this month, said: “We are here by choice…we have been attracted to the tremendous change seen in Assam…”

A number of frontline hospitality brands are also eyeing this north-eastern state.

Vindi Banga, president, global foods, home and personal care, Unilever, told DNA: “HUL will help out on a project to improve the quality, productivity and sustainability of the tea plantations in Assam, which are a state asset…HUL’s personal products factory today produces about 40,000 tonnes, employs 700 people directly and creates indirect employment for about 3,000 people. Most of our raw material for this factory is procured locally, from around 50 suppliers, most of whom are first generation suppliers for us.”

According to a State Bank of India official, “The financial giant is looking to increase its lending exposure, once big-ticket investors are in place here.” The bank has expanded rapidly over the last two years in the North-East, with around 520 branches, of which 263 are in Assam alone.

Aditya Khaitan, managing director, McLeod Russel, said, “We produce 72 million kg of tea from 50 tea estates in Assam and have started making other investments like jatropha planting. At some point, we could think of oil refining as well.”

Source: DNA

Put the kettle on, Sarah Palin

Sarah m’dear, it’s not about the party. It’s about the tea.

For those of us of the British persuasion, tea is black tea. It was the tea on which the British built the empire.

It was also, I might add, the tea that Margaret Thatcher served at No. 10 Downing Street. I enjoyed some with her there. A Conservative traditionalist, she served it with milk for certain and sugar as an option.

Thatcher did not ask her guests, as bad hotels do now, what kind of tea they would like. Tea to Thatcher was black tea, sometimes known as Indian tea, though it might have been grown in Kenya, South Africa, Zimbabwe or Sri Lanka. It was neither flavored nor some herbal muck masquerading as tea.

The former prime minister knew that good tea is made in the kitchen, where stove-boiled water is poured from a kettle onto tea in a pot, not tepid water poured from a pot on a table into a cup with a tea bag.

Boiling water in a kettle, or pot, on the stove is important in making good tea. In a microwave, the water doesn’t bubble. Tea needs the bubbles.

While the Chinese drank green tea hundreds of years before Christ, the British developed their tea-drinking habit in the 17th century. In 1600, Queen Elizabeth I granted permission for the charter of the British East India Company, establishing the trade in spice and silk that lead to the formal annexation of India and the establishment of the Raj.

Initially, tea was a sideline but it became increasingly important and started to define the British. The coffee shops–like the one that launched the insurer Lloyds of London around 1688–continued, but at all levels of society tea was becoming the British obsession.

By the 18th century, tea drinking was classless in Britain. Duchesses and workmen enjoyed it alike.

Tea was the fuel of the empire: the war drink, the social drink, the comfort drink and the consolation drink. Coffee had an upmarket connotation. It wasn’t widely available and the British didn’t make it very well.

Also as coffee was well established on the continent, it had to be shunned. To this day the British are divided about continental Europe and what they see as the emblems of Euro-depravity: coffee, garlic, scents and bidets.

Although tea is standardized, the British play their class games over the tea packers. For three centuries, most tea has been shipped in bulk to various packing houses throughout the British Isles. But the posh prefer Twinings to Lipton.

Offering tea with fancy cakes, clotted cream and fine jams separates the workers from the ruling classes. One of Queen Victoria’s ladies in waiting, Anna Maria Stanhope, known as the Duchess of Bedford, is credited as the creator of afternoon tea time; which the hotels turned into formal, expensive afternoon “teas.” The Ritz in London is famous for them.

The British believe that tea sustained them through many wars. “Let’s have a nice cup of tea. Things will get better.” I’ve always believed that America’s revenge against the British crown was to ice their beloved tea. Toss it into Boston Harbor, but don’t ice it. If you should have the good fortune to be asked to tea at No. 10, or at Buckingham Palace, don’t expect it to be iced.

Incidentally tea bags are fine, and it’s now just pretentious to serve loose tea with a strainer. Of course, if you want to read the political tea leaves you’ll have to use loose tea.

If you’re serving tea to the thousands at your tea parties, Sarah, remember that unlike politics, tea is very forgiving. It can be revived just with more boiling water. –For the Hearst-New York Times Syndicate

By Llewellyn King

Source: White House Chronicle

Rain cheer for tea industry - Planters hope for good first flush crop

Guwahati, March 31: Continuous rain for the past one week has brought cheer to the tea industry in Assam with planters hoping for a good harvest during the first flush that ends in May.

The tea produced from the leaves picked during first flush (March-May) is known for its strong and fresh flavour. Nearly 20 per cent of the total production of tea in Assam takes place during the first flush period.

Assam produces about 500 million kg of tea annually, which is more than 50 per cent of the country’s total production of the crop.

The state has over 800 tea estates spread across both the Brahmaputra and Barak valleys.

Upper Assam, the hub of tea activities in the state, recorded about 72.6mm rainfall in the past six days.

During the corresponding period last year, however, there was no rainfall.

“We are hoping for a good harvest during the first flush,” said Abhijit Sharma, chairman of the Assam Tea Planters Association.

Sharma, who is also a renowned planter, said Golaghat district, which witnessed a prolonged dry spell, had also been blessed with heavy rainfall in the past few days.

Upper Assam witnessed 22.4mm rainfall today, the heaviest during the past six days of continuous rainfall.

Kamala Kanta Nath, head of the department of agro meteorology at Assam Agricultural University, said the rain had come as a boon for not only tea but paddy crops as well.

“Last year there was no rain at all during this period. As such the agriculture sector was adversely affected,” he said.

A scientist at the Tocklai Tea Research Station said the rain had come as a blessing as pest attacks on tea bushes would reduce.

“Heavy showers have washed away the red spiders and helopeltis (tea mosquitoes) from the tea bushes. The pest attacks on the bushes will lessen now,” he said.

The Tocklai scientist said the cost of production would also come down since the planters need not use more pesticides like they would have to do in the case of a dry spell.

Apart from the tea-rich Upper Assam, the showers also brought good news to planters in Barak Valley.

“We are expecting a good harvest during the first flush. We hope to make up for the crop loss in the last few weeks,” said Dipanjal Deka, secretary of the Tea Association of India.

The association has several member gardens in Barak Valley.

Planters in Assam were a worried lot till a month back in view of the dry spell that began from December. The state witnessed a similar situation last year.

Another scientist at the Assam Agricultural University said the state had witnessed a tremendous climatic change in recent times with a decrease of nearly 50 per cent in annual rainfall in the last 15 years. Last year, planters had to carry out replantation in several gardens in Jorhat, Golaghat, Karbi Anglong and Sivasagar districts.

Source: The Telegraph

McLeod topline to cross Rs 1,000 cr on firm tea prices

Kolkata: McLeod Russel, the Kolkata-based single-largest tea company in the world, is reaping gains from the string of acquisitions it made in the last few years.

Thanks to higher tea prices, the B M Khaitan group company is set to cross the Rs 1,000 crore turnover mark in 2009-10 from Rs 829 crore in the last fiscal and is also trimming its debt by a neat Rs 100 crore.

McLeod with its latest acquisition in Uganda in January this year has an overall production of 100 million kilograms, with 77 million kg being produced in India alone.

K K Baheti, director, McLeod Russel, told DNA Money, “We will cross the Rs 1,000 crore turnover mark in 2009-10. For a tea plantation company to be of this size...is almost a dream come true. It’s true that we have been able to double our production largely through the acquisitions that we have made over the last five years.”

McLeod in 2009-10 will be able to reduce its debt component to around Rs 315 crore from Rs 415 crore in 2008-09.

Out of Rs 315 crore, Rs 200 crore comprises the debt component, while the rest is working capital.

“There has been a cash accretion that has helped us, but I would say that the benefit of higher prices on a higher crop component that has grown through acquisitions has paid off very well. The Ebita is likely to be higher by Rs 140-150 crore this year, which would be around Rs 350 crore,” Baheti said.

Industry analysts said the company on the back of higher prices of tea in the current year has made cash accretion of Rs 200 crore, a part of which will be used to bring down the debt component. Average prices of McLeod Russel teas have increased by Rs 25 this year.

According to Baheti, the company would be able to take a call on the full year prices in June-July, after the peak season.

“We feel prices will go up, but costs have gone up as well. About $10-15 million of Ebita would come in from the Uganda acquisition, which is around Rs 40-50 crore in 2010-11,” he said.

McLeod Russel in the last two years has gone in for two acquisitions — one in Vietnam followed by an acquisition of 60% shares in Gisovu Tea Company in Rwanda.

Source: DNA

Tea Trumps Towers as Dubai Maps Way Back to Future as Trade Hub

By Henry Meyer

March 31 (Bloomberg) -- At Unilever’s Lipton Tea factory near Dubai’s main port, rows of machines convert leaves from Kenya and India into a million tea bags an hour destined for breakfast tables from South Africa to Canada.

“By bringing in tea here, we are close to the market, so we blend it fast, pack it fast,” said Sanjiv Mehta, Unilever’s chairman for North Africa and Middle East, in an interview at the factory, the world’s second-biggest. “And because of the logistics here being very efficient, we’re able to quickly move it to the consumer markets.”

Dubai is spending $13 billion on building a new international airport and expanding existing air and shipping terminals. The ruling Al Maktoum family is focusing on the emirate’s traditional strength as a trade hub, after borrowing $109 billion to build record skyscrapers and man-made islands led to the world’s worst property crash last year.

“What I really want to concentrate on is what is the core business,” Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the uncle of Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and chairman of the financial decision-making body, the Supreme Fiscal Committee, said in a March 16 interview. The emirate put too much emphasis on real estate as prices soared, he said.

About $330 billion of building projects have been put on hold, according to Proleads, which monitors real estate in the region, after a 50 percent slump in property prices. They include Dubailand, a leisure park that would have been three times the size of Manhattan.

The crash forced state-owned Dubai World to postpone paying back $25 billion of debt. HSBC Holdings Plc, one of the main creditors, yesterday said it welcomed a plan to extend repayments over eight years.

Capital of Commerce

Still on track, though, are investments aimed at enhancing the blend of geography and good facilities that transformed Dubai from a fishing village to a capital of global commerce. Located mid-way between Europe and Asia and Africa, it’s been a crossroads for trade linking the Gulf, India and East Africa since the early 20th century.

Dubai is already home to the largest port in the Middle East and the biggest Arab airline, Emirates. In June it will open an initial cargo terminal at Al Maktoum International airport near Jebel Ali, cutting the time it takes to transfer goods between ships and aircraft to four hours from at least 16.

When completed, Al Maktoum will have five runways, four passenger terminals able to accommodate 160 million arrivals a year, and 18 cargo terminals with a capacity of 12 million tons. A 21.5- square kilometer logistics center will link the airport with the Jebel Ali port, which has laid the foundations for a third terminal that could more than triple shipping capacity.

No Constraints

Dubai’s current airport, Dubai International, hosted 40.9 million passengers last year and is being expanded to accommodate 75 million by 2012 and later 90 million. That’s not enough to cope with expected growth in trade and tourism, says Andrew Walsh, vice-president for cargo and logistics at Dubai World Central, which is building Al-Maktoum.

“We need an area that doesn’t have the same constraints as now,” Walsh said in a March 23 interview.

The global recession has slowed construction of Al Maktoum, postponing the opening of the cargo terminal from last year. Emirates announced this month that it may delay moving to the new airport until 2030.

Still, the plan makes economic sense, said Philippe Dauba- Pantanacce, an economist at Standard Chartered Plc in Dubai.

‘No Equal’

“They are really succeeding in that strategy in becoming the major transport hub for the region,” he said. “Compared to all its neighbors, Dubai has no equal.”

Dubai is within eight hours flying time of two-thirds of the world’s population. Sixty percent of the Middle East’s imports pass through the emirate. The World Bank said the United Arab Emirates has the best logistical services in the Middle East in its 2010 global ranking.

Dubai’s infrastructure today stems from decisions made beginning from the late 1950s by then-ruler Sheikh Rashid, father of Sheikh Mohammed.

Rashid ignored objections from Dubai merchants and even from his son Mohammed to build Jebel Ali, the world’s largest man-made harbor, on an empty beach almost 35 kilometers (20 miles) from the city, according to “Dubai, the World’s Fastest City”, by Jim Krane.

The port is now linked to a free trade zone for manufacturing and distribution in which goods for re-export are exempt from all duties. Almost 6,400 companies from more than 120 countries operate at Jebel Ali, including Unilever.

“Where people in the last few years went wrong is that they started believing that real estate could become a real driver of economic growth,” said Unilever’s Mehta. “If you look at the brand of Dubai, it stands for free trade and commerce.”

--With assistance from Arif Sharif, Anthony DiPaola and Zainab Fattah in Dubai. Editors: Ben Holland, Philip Sanders.

To contact the reporter on this story: Henry Meyer in Dubai at hmeyer4@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at phirschberg@bloomberg.net

Source: Business Week