COVID-19 may hit India's foreign currency earnings from tea exports, fear experts
GUWAHATI/AGARTALA: Drop in production due to COVID-19 pandemic, nationwide lockdown, besides governmental restrictions, may lead to a loss of huge foreign currency earnings as India used to export tea to more than 30 countries, experts said.
According to economists and experts, delayed start of various works in the tea gardens, including plucking and processing, besides government enforced restrictions, are among the key reasons to give a blow to export of tea in over 30 countries.
The North Eastern Tea Association (NETA) adviser Bidyananda Barkakoty said: "Exports of Indian tea may get affected. The 'Out Of Home' (OOH) consumption is almost negligible due to the ongoing lockdown and it would continue even after partial relaxations of lockdown."
"There was no harvesting of tea leaves for three weeks followed by skiffing of more than 35 per cent of tea bushes. And now, only 50 per cent of the workforce is allowed to work by the government due to the coronavirus pandemic. Therefore the crop loss may be much more than what was estimated," said Barkakoty.
In 2019 (January to December) India exported 248.29 million kg of tea valued at Rs 5,610.65 crore with the unit price of Rs 225.97 per kg. In 2018, the country sold 256.06 million kg tea worth Rs 5,335.33 crore abroad, with unit price of Rs 208.36 per kg. The NETA adviser said that around 18 per cent of India's tea production is exported whereas the rest 82 per cent is consumed domestically. Quoting the Tea Board's records, he said that the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) countries, including Russia, imports about 50 million kg of Indian tea followed by Iran at about 40 million kg, China about 12 million kg, USA about 11 million kg, UK about 10 million kg, UAE about 10 million kg, Germany about 8 million kg, followed by other countries.
The NETA has done a SWOT (Strenghts-Weakness-Opportunities-Threats) analysis of Assam tea industry due to the lockdown impact and related issues, to study both positive and negative attributes, determining how best to sustain in this difficult time.
Barkakoty said: "It would take some more time for the supply chain to stabilize. Huge liquidity crunch is facing tea producers. The total revenue loss from March 23 to April 14 is to the tune of Rs 1,218 crore. (IANS)