May 17, 2016- The production of orthodox tea has been projected to drop sharply due to prolonged drought, according to the National Tea and Coffee Development Board. Gaurab Luitel, planning officer at the board, said the ‘first flush’ of the tea harvest this year had been badly hit by the dry spell.

The ‘first flush’ of the tea harvest is the plucking of tea leaves after the winter season that begins from mid-February and lasts until mid-May. This is also the best season that ensures the high quality of tea leaves.  

“Reduced output could affect export prices,” said Som Prasad Gauchan, president of the Himalayan Tea Producers’ Association.
Tea producers expressed concern that productivity could drop at a time when demand for Nepali orthodox tea has been rising in the international market.

They said that demand for Nepali tea had been increasing at the rate of 10-15 percent annually. Germany is the major market for Nepali orthodox tea. Besides, a number of other European countries and the US are large buyers of Nepali tea.

Gauchan said China was an emerging market for Nepali tea. The northern neighbour has been offering duty-free access to the product.
However, problems in customs procedures mainly due to lack of knowledge of Chinese and inadequate banking facilities have been the key barriers to exporting Nepali tea to China, he said.

According to Gauchan, improvement in quality, farmer awareness about growing organic tea and involvement of an increasing number of private firms in the tea sector have helped to attract hordes of foreign buyers.

“In addition, the changing mode of tea production and processing to address chemical residues found in tea has also helped Nepali tea to gain popularity in the global market,” he said.

For instance, the presence of the chemical anthraquinone in Nepali tea used to be a problem for exporters in the past, but now it has been completely eliminated.

John Taylor, marketing manager of the Himalayan Tea Producers’ Cooperative, said Nepali orthodox tea was gaining popularity in the international market. “Due to its improved quality, many buyers have started considering Nepal as a place of organic tea,” he said.

According to him, a French company named Palais Des Thes, which is one of the big tea suppliers in the European market, has
also shown interest in purchasing Nepali tea. “The company’s representatives are scheduled to visit Nepal this week to discuss business,” said Taylor.

Meanwhile, domestic tea producers have been showing increasing interest in obtaining organic certification. Basanta Ranabhat, chairman of Organic Certification Nepal, said that tea producers had been showing more interest in obtaining organic certification recently.
“We have granted organic certification to two companies based in Dhankuta and Kanyam of Ilam, while a number of other producers
have received certification from foreign companies,” Ranabhat said.

Published: 17-05-2016 08:36

Source: The Kathmandu Post