Indian consumers on high grade Darjeeling Tea

KOLKATA: Darjeeling tea industry is in a happy mood. After years of promotion, domestic consumers have started picking up premium Darjeeling tea. This will partly reduce the worries of Darjeeling tea producers who depend mainly on export for revenue.

Annually, Darjeeling produces nearly 10 million kg tea. Of this, 40% earns the maximum revenues as they are largely exported. The rest is rain teas that generally do not fetch good prices in the world market.

"We are seeing that Indian consumers are now ready to pay higher prices for Darjeeling Tea. This is a great achievement. We have been trying to sell Darjeeling teas in the domestic market for sometime now. We were even thinking of blending the rain teas with the premium quality and market it for domestic consumption," said Sanjay Bansal, chairman of Ambootia Group, the second-largest Darjeeling tea producer in the country.

The industry feels that this will bring down the worries of the Darjeeling planters in a big way. "The impact of recession or any other financial crisis in Europe will not hit their bottomline," said an industry analyst. However, the export market is also shining bright for Darjeeling teas this year. Harrods of Knightsbridge has picked up 20% more while Twinings has placed inquiries with the tea companies. Japanese buyers like Mitsui too have placed orders. Strong demand from overseas has pushed up the prices of Darjeeling teas at auctions by Rs 10-15 per kg.

"There is a huge demand among the buyers of organic teas. Those gardens that produce organic teas are fetching good prices in the global market. In general, prices of tea are ruling firm," Bansal added.

Last year, Darjeeling tea had suffered a fall in production due to a drought-like situation in the hills. This year, production of tea has increased due to favorable weather. "Last year, production got affected due to a drought-like situation. We lost the premium first- and second-flush teas, which fetch maximum revenues for the tea companies. Revenue-wise, this year will be better than last year," said Ashok Lohia, chairman of Chamong Tee, the largest Darjeeling tea producer in the country.

Last year, Darjeeling had produced 8 million kg tea, which was the lowest in the last decade.

Source: Economic Times