Export only quality tea, says Tea Board

Eye on quality tea export

The Tea Board of India chairman talks to Roopak Goswami of The Telegraph about the board’s focus areas during the Twelfth Plan.
Where is Indian tea now positioned in the world, not just quantitativ-ely, but qualitatively? The ind-ustry has often been saying that it is quality conscious yet we still do not export that much as we keep on failing on our targets. What is the way out?
A: At the global level India is still the largest producer of black tea. However, in terms of total production, China ranks first and India is the second largest tea-producing country.
Quality-wise Indian teas continue to command a good image as teas originating from Darjeeling, Assam and the Nilgiris are well known for their quality the world over. The depression, which lasted for more than eight years during the past decade, made the industry focus more on quality production. Unlike the other major tea-producing and exporting countries, the situation in India is quite different.
For the leading exporting countries like Kenya and Sri Lanka, tea is a major foreign exchange earner, and they export almost 95 to 98 per cent of their total production. On the other hand, in India there is a strong domestic market and more than 80 per cent of the total production is domestically consumed. Because of this, there is not much of a compulsion on anyone to put stress on exporting teas.
As Indian teas are well known for their quality attributes, the focus now is on exporting only quality teas to get higher value rather than chasing volume.
Q: As the industry now looks towards the Twelfth Plan, do we concentrate on quality or focus on increasing production?
A: The strategy of the board during the Twelfth Plan is to maintain a fine balance between demand and supply with more focus on quality production. The growth rate of domestic demand is around 3 per cent, which entails an additional production to the tune of 20 to 25 million kg per annum just for meeting the domestic demand in full. At the same time, it is also proposed to retain a reasonable share in the global market.
Thus, the production strategy is to meet the domestic demand in full and maintain a share of around 15 per cent in the global market. It is proposed to support long-term development measures such as extension planting to increase the area and uprooting the old and senile plantations to improve the productivity in the organised sector and collectivisation of small tea growers to move up in the value chain.
Q: Is the board working hard on getting new export markets? Which are the new markets where India can think of gaining ground?
A: Yes, a focused approach is being adopted on the export front and keeping in view the increasing competition in the world market, five strategically important markets — the US, Russia, Kazakhstan, Iran and Egypt — have been selected for extensive and intensive promotional intervention through execution of five specific activities over five years.
The activities identified are extensive promotion of the India Tea logo, engagement with the local trading community, consumer-oriented promotion, utilisation of social media and focus on export of value-added teas by putting in place infrastructure enablers.
The above countries have been selected based on the parameters of market attractiveness and potentiality and ability to compete by the Indian tea industry. The foremost objective of the entire exercise is to position Indian tea as an over-arching umbrella brand under which five identified promotional activities would be designed, co-ordinated and implemented by reinforcing Brand India, which connects the target traders and consumers.
This is expected to result in prominent brand recall for Indian tea over a short to medium term so as to translate into significant increase in value market shares in the targeted markets for years to come.
Q: What is being done to boost domestic tea consumption? Any marketing efforts in this direction? CTC or orthodox — which tea gets priority now?
A: Domestic consumers prefer CTC teas and in the global market there is a good demand for orthodox teas. Keeping this in view, both types of teas are given due importance in the promotional work of the board.
However, special support by way of cash incentive is being provided to the producers to increase orthodox and green tea production.
Q: Is the board looking at areas which did not get much focus earlier ?
A: The regulatory role of the board, which is one of its primary functions, would be given due importance.
For effective discharge of regulatory functions, a comprehensive national programme of tea regulation has been formulated for implementation during the Twelfth Plan period.
A number of activities are being given priority and taken on a mission mode for implementation at the national level.
Q: Has the board been able to utilise the sanctioned money for the Eleventh Plan. What are you going to do to see that the money received in the Twelfth Plan is utilised to it’s fullest and targets are met?
A: The board received Rs 745 crore during the Twelfth Plan period and the entire fund received from the government had been fully utilised. The question of non-utilisation of the sanctioned money, therefore, does not arise.
Several refinements have been introduced in order to ensure speedy disbursement of the funds to the eligible beneficiaries. Some such refinements include direct transfer of funds to the accounts of the applicants through online transfer rather than sending the cheques by post.
There would be more decentralisation of the powers to the zonal offices so that they handle the entire disbursement process instead of central processing adopted hitherto in head offices in respect of most popular schemes such as Special Purpose Tea Fund and orthodox subsidy scheme.
Q: A vexed problem has been the price-sharing formula, which has never been sol-ved. What is being done on this?
A: The crux of the problem lies in establishing transparency in the transactions between the bought leaf factories and the growers.
Being very small and highly fragmented holdings and being unorganised, the individual growers end up in disposing their green leaf to agents, who, in turn, supply the green leaf to various bought leaf factories.
In the process, the growers do not get to know which factory has received their green leaf and the price received by the factory for the teas. Under this opaque system, the biggest casualty is transparency.
To address this issue in all fairness, the board has alre-ady set up district price monitoring committees under the chairmanship of respective district magistrates in seven major tea growing districts — five in Assam and two in North Bengal. These have been advised to monitor leaf movement and price-sharing mechanism being adopted by the bought leaf factories.
The board has also assigned a study to the Institute of Cost and Works Accountants of India (ICWAI) on the cost factor involved in production of green leaf at the field level and processing and marketing cost for the factories.
Q: Organic tea production is still very low though it takes a long time to get premium pr-ice. What steps are being taken for promotion of organic tea?
A: Organic production entails additional cost not only during production but also in getting it certified and marketed.
In order to fetch a premium, it is necessary for the producers to go in for direct marketing rather than through intermediaries. Conversion from conventional to organic tea also not only leads to immediate crop loss during the conversion period, but also takes nearly 10 to 12 years to regain the original level of production.
It is proposed to provide special incentives towards cost of replanting/replacement of old tea areas when they are converted to organic. For such activities the subsidy would cover to some extent the value of crop lost during the gestation period.
Incentive would also be provided for new planting and certification cost. Preference would also be given to organic tea producers for participation in international fairs and exhibitions.

Northeast India proviides home to Bhutan Glory

Bhutan’s Glory graces India
- Butterfly species spotted at two places in Arunachal

Bhutan’s national butterfly has been found in Arunachal Pradesh.

Bhutanitis ludlowi, commonly known as Ludlow’s Bhutan Glory, was found at two places in Arunachal’s West Kameng district (east of Bhutan) — Eaglenest Widlife Sanctuary and near Sange village — in September.

The butterfly had been spotted near Sange village and at the wildlife sanctuary by Pijush Dutta on September 6 and Sujatha Padmanabhan on September 11 respectively.

“It was sheer luck for me as I had just taken a picture while going through the area. I came back and put it on Facebook when somebody told me that it was Bhutanitis ludlowi. I am delighted,” Dutta, senior landscape co-ordinator of Western Arunachal Landscape Conservation Programme, told The Telegraph.

The discovery is particularly significant because the species was rediscovered in Bhutan only in 2009, after the initial species description in 1942 based on the specimens collected in 1933-1934.

“I found it on September 6 near Sange village after crossing Dirang on way to Sela. I found it on an alnus tree at a height of 2,600 metres,” he said. The other two members who had accompanied Dutta were Jaya Upadhyay and Sanjib Shil.

Padmanabhan, who works with Kalpavriksh, an environment group, told The Telegraph:“We were a little below Lama camp when the sighting happened. When I took the photograph I did not know that it was the Ludlow’s Bhutan Glory. I am not an expert on butterflies, and it was friends who helped me identify it. So in that sense, it was a chance discovery.”

Last year in Bhutan, a picture of a dead butterfly belonging to this species was taken by Sanjay Sondhi, who works for Titli Trust. The species was believed to be endemic to the Trashiyangtse Valley in eastern Bhutan’s Trashi Yangtse.

Sondhi said the significance of the discovery lies in the fact that the butterfly, which was exclusive to Bhutan, has now been discovered in two places of Arunachal.

The Bhutan government in February this year had made Ludlow’s Bhutan Glory its national butterfly because of its uniqueness and rarity, as it is known to thrive only in small pockets of the country.

The ministry of agriculture and forests of Bhutan said: “The name (Ludlow’s Bhutan Glory) of this fabulous and magnificent butterfly not only carries the name of the country but also presents the best image of our country in the international arena. The name also is the true replica of the insect itself since it is one of the most beautiful butterflies in its utmost glory. Woven in best colour combination of black and white strips, the captivating motif on its tail-part of the wings is appealing. Hence, the national butterfly is also an ideal reflection of our beautiful country.”

“It is an addition to the Indian butterfly fauna and a stunning discovery,” said Krushnamegh Kunte, a butterfly biologist.


Lukewarm response by private sector in NE waterways

NE waterways not attractive for private sector

The waterways sector in the Northeast is yet to become a commercial success with private players staying away from the seemingly lucrative and cost-effective trade of transporting goods over the numerous rivers criss-crossing in the region.
Both the Brahmaputra and Barak rivers are yet to be commercialised, though the former was declared a national waterway way back in 1988.
Though much has been said of the economics of inland water transport that is more economical and safer than road and rail transport, the sector has not generated much interest in the private sector.
An inland waterways official says the reasons behind the private players’ disinterest in the sector are many — from lack of industries, scarcity of vessels to problems faced while getting clearance for sailing through Bangladesh.
The working group on improvement and development of transport infrastructure in the Northeast for the National Transport Development Policy Committee says: “As inland water transport has not received its due importance in policy and investments so far (investment-wise things look promising for the future), operators with the required fleet size have not emerged either in the private or the public sector. This is the major bottleneck in the promotion of inland water transport. Brahmaputra and Barak rivers have not been fully commercially exploited for transportation purposes. Inland Waterways Authority of India is not an operator. The public sector, Central Inland Water Transport Corporation Ltd, is sick and has squandered away the advantages of fleet strength. The private sector has not emerged due to various policy reasons. Therefore, the challenge here is to create a policy regime that will promote investment in appropriate fleet of vessels in both public and private sectors.”
It said sufficient infusion of funds must be ensured for the sector to take off and suggested investments to the tune of Rs 10,000 crore up to the Fifteenth Plan.
The Northeast has nearly 1,800km of river routes that can be used by steamers and large country boats and the inland water transport departments of both the state and central governments have been trying to improve the sector in the region.
The Inland Waterways Authority had floated tenders for looking for a private partner to run the coal-handling terminal at Jogighopa, but no one came forward.
Numaligarh Refinery Limited, which had used the river route to transport diesel to Bangladesh, also stopped, dealing a big blow to the sector.
Barak has still not been declared a national waterway though the authorities have recommended it.
The working committee called for partnerships between the public and private sectors to improve the development, management and operation of inland water transport. “Capital investment and expertise for the improvement of the waterway network requires development of a structure for public-private partnerships that attracts the private sector and mitigates their financial risks.”
An inland waterways official conceded that not much headway had been made in attracting the private sector, as the incentives may not be good enough. “Transporters are still not accepting the idea that sending goods over waterways is cost effective and safer though it takes a longer time. There has to be public awareness of the economic benefits of the sector in the region amongst all stakeholders, thereby encouraging a shift to water transport where appropriate. Targets of movement of bulk commodities should be quantified over agreed time periods with appropriate incentives.”
The Centre has now taken interest in giving a fillip to private sector investments, especially in moving food grains and coal on Brahmaputra (National Waterway 2). A committee set up under the Prime Minister’s Office has been assigned the responsibility of identifying multiple business models that could then be bid out through concessions. This will be supplemented by designing model concession agreements and other standardised documents for facilitating a rapid scaling up of investments.
The commerce ministry has said an industrial unit located in the Northeast would be eligible for 90 per cent subsidy it if transported goods over the Brahmaputra from Dhubri to Sadiya and thereafter by road to the manufacturing unit.
All other provisions of the transport subsidy scheme will be applicable for deciding the eligibility of an industrial unit for transport subsidy.