Tea is Afghanistan’s unofficial national drink. Offered to guests within moments of arrival for an official meeting or a social get-together, it’s either green or the back variant that’s preferred the most. To not offer a glass is a social affront and is meant to make a point by an unhappy or unwilling host. More typically, silver trays filled with short glasses of tea are brought out to greet friends.
India annually exports around one to one and a half million kilograms of tea to Afghanistan. In the 2020-2021 pandemic impeded market, 0.76 million kilograms of India Tea was exported to Afghanistan, trading a business worth 11.17 crores. This is around 0.4 per cent of the total tea export of the country. Whereas in the financial year 2019-20 the export to Afghanistan was 2.17 million kilograms worth trade of 26.84 crores accounting for 0.9 per cent of the total tea export of that year.
“It’s mostly Green Tea from Punjab mandi and the longleaf orthodox or Black tea which is primarily exported to Afghanistan and the trade is a negligible one million kilograms. The net tea export of the country this year is around 207 million kilograms whereas the volume of export in 2019-20 was 252 million kilograms” says Anshuman Kanoria Chairperson Indian Tea Export Association.
As the Taliban seized control over Kabul after two decades, the trade business between the two countries India and Afghanistan has been severely affected. The Federation of Indian Export Organisation (FIEO) said that the Taliban have stopped the trading system. Speaking to news agency ANI, Dr Ajay Sahai, Director General of FIEO said that the Taliban have stopped the movement of cargo through the routes of Pakistan thereby hampering and stopping exports and imports between the countries.
However, more than the Afghan export, it’s the price and cost of production of Assam tea that the industry is more worried about these days. “Tea industry is struggling for its survival owing to a decline in prices below the Cost of Production (CoP)”, says Bidyananda Barkakoty, Adviser North Eastern Tea Association (NETA).
“While on one hand, the price realisation of tea is lower by Rs. 44.19 per kg, which is about 18 per cent less compared to last year and on the other hand, the Cost of Production (CoP) has gone up due to hike in wages and inputs. The CoP has gone up by Rs. 25 per kg of made tea due to the recent hike in daily cash wage from Rs 167 to Rs 205, CoP too has gone up by Rs. 7.00 per kg of made tea due to an increase in the cost of inputs like fertilizer, pesticides, diesel, natural gas, coal, transportation etc. Therefore, the net negative impact on the industry till date is to the tune of Rs.76.00 per kg of made tea”, added Barkakoty.
As per records made available by the association, Assam’s total tea production in 2021, from Jan to June, is less by about 41 million kilograms, which is about 19 per cent less compared to the same period in 2019. Production of 2020 was an aberration due to Covid-19 induced lockdown. In 2019, from Jan to June, tea production was 220.11 million kgs whereas this year it is 179.32 million kilograms.
The average price realisation of CTC tea at the Guwahati Tea Auction Centre (GTAC) in 2021, from April to July, is Rs. 208.02 per kg, whereas it was Rs. 252.21 per kg during the same period last year. The realisation this year is less by Rs. 44.19 per kg. Only about 9 per cent of tea have fetched above Rs. 300.00 per kg and about 51 per cent of tea have got sold below Rs.200.00 per kg.” says Sunil Jallan, Chairman, NETA” “Moreover the volume of unsold tea at GTAC is more than double compared to last year. In 2020, the unsold quantity at GTAC from April to July was 16.37 per cent, whereas this year, the unsold quantity is 35.16 per cent” added Jalan.
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