New global tea forum to address challenges

Written by RajeshRavi | Kochi | Updated: Jan 23 2013, 08:49am hrs
Leading tea producers of the world, namely India, China and Kenya, have come together to form an organisation to address major concerns of the sector. The organisation, the International Tea Producers Forum, was formally launched on Monday in Colombo and would serve as a platform to address issues such as residue levels and sustainability, sources said.

The forum has also been formed to safeguard interests of tea-producing countries and to evolve collective solutions to problems affecting producers. The idea of setting up the forum had been doing the rounds since 2006 and was raised at various international forums, including he Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) meetings.

India is the leading producer of tea in the world with 25% share of total production. The country is represented by a 15-member delegation led by minister of state for commerce, D Purandeswari. The increasing demand for tea to safeguard the interests of the producers would be a major concern of the forum, given the fact that tea is facing stiff competition from beverages such as coffee and bottled colas. The grouping could help in promoting tea as the most natural and healthy beverage. The pesticide residue problem is regarded as another major issue in the tea industry, with different tea- producing countries having different norms for the maximum permissible levels (MRL).

FAO reports that the world tea market indicates an improvement in the fundamental oversupply situation seen in recent years, with supply and demand coming into greater balance at prices higher than what were seen over the last decade. But that trend will not continue if growers overreact to current firm prices, it warned. Looking ahead to the next 10 years, the working group for tea constituted by FAO estimates that global black tea production will grow at almost 1.9 % annually.