THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Cosying up with a steaming cup of tea every morning, the average Pakistani needn't necessarily think of the Munnar high-ranges. But exporters from Kerala couldn't have cared less. For Pakistan's obsession with tea is keeping their cash registers ringing.
With tea trade being one sector thriving despite a lack of formal relations between the two neighbours, Kerala accounts for around half of the Indian tea export to Pakistan. While exports to the CIS countries has slipped, the Pakistan connection has brought cheers to the tea plantations in the state which hosts the country's highest elevated orthodox tea-making units.
According to statistics available with the Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry, tea exports to Pakistan stood at 12.73 million kilograms during April 2017 to January 2018, as against 9.65 million kilograms during the same period in the previous year - an increase of 3.08 million kg (31.92%). Interestingly, half of the total exports to Pakistan, where per capita consumption of tea is among the world's highest, was by operators from south India through the Kochi port. The exporters involved in the trade said that around 75 to 80 per cent of tea exports to Pakistan is from south India.
Pakistan, however, is importing low quality tea from the state acclaimed as one of the highest altitude tea plantations in the world and boasting the unique feature of preserving its heritage in tea-making at local factories. Sunil George of Harrisons Malayalam Ltd told Express importers from Pakistan have been sourcing low quality tea from India to be mixed with the tea they import from countries like Kenya, as it gives them a better margin.
According to a senior officer with the Kochi-based Blue Mountain Exporters, for an average Pakistani, black tea or 'chai' is an obsession rooted deep in their culture. For many, it is much more than a drink.
"Among the countries we export tea to, Pakistan accounts for the highest volume exported from Kochi," he said.
According to Eapen Kalappurakkal, secretary of the Cochin Chamber of Commerce and Industry, of the total 72.54 million kg of tea exported from Kochi to various regions like Europe, Africa, America, Australia and other Asian countries in 2017, about 6.24 million kg was meant exclusively for Karachi. This doesn't mean Kerala is the lone tea exporter to Pakistan. Export firms operational in other parts of the country have been procuring tea from the plantations in south India, including Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, and have been exporting them through the Kochi port.
A senior Customs officer said, since there is no major trade embargo between India and Pakistan, tea export has been thriving through Kochi. Apart from direct export to Karachi, until recently, exports had also been done via the Dubai port, the officer said.
While the country has been exporting tea at Rs 346/kg to Ireland, subject to market trends, the Tea Board statistics show the buyers in Pakistan have been procuring tea at Rs 88/kg. While the price and quality of the tea depends on the interest of the buyers, the exporters from Kerala said Pakistani buyers are sourcing low grade tea to be mixed with high-quality tea sourced from other countries.
At the same time, tea exports to CIS countries took a beating with exports standing at 46.92 million kg during 2017-18 (April-January) as against 49.63 million kg during the same period in the previous year - a decline of 2.71 million kg (5.46%).
Similarly, the total value of exports for 2017-18 April to January was Rs 3,970.37 crore as against Rs 3,874.82 crore during the same period in the previous year - only a marginal increase in total value of exports to the level of Rs 95.55 crore (2.47%).
Tea exports from India to Pakistan
2016 - 12,830 tonnes
2017 - 14,450 tonnes
- 75 to 80 % of tea exports to Pakistan are from south India
- The per capita consumption of tea in Pakistan is among the highest in the world with about one kg
- Pakistan is the world's third largest tea importer, consuming 170 million kg of tea every year
- Pakistan imports black tea from as many as 38 countries, with Kenya accounting for a major share
- Tea exports to Pakistan from India stood at 12.73 million kg during 2017-18 (April-Jan)
- Cochin Port exported 6.24 million kg tea to Pak in 2017
- India is the second largest producer of tea with an annual output of 1,275 million kg, which works out to around 24 per cent of the world’s tea output
- Tea exports from India account for a mere 18 per cent of our total production