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Tea brews sales pitch for home and abroad

Calcutta, Feb. 17: Tea planters have drawn up a two-pronged plan to boost exports and increase domestic consumption.

Delegations are set to visit the US, Iran, Russia and Kazakhstan this year to strengthen trade ties. Besides facilitating B2B (business-to-business) interactions, the focus will be on receiving direct feedback from consumers. A visit to Pakistan is also on cards, though the plans are yet to firmed up in the backdrop of the recent strain in relations.

On the domestic front, cluster meetings will be held in Lucknow, Indore, Kolhapur, Rajkot, Pune, Hyderabad and Coimbatore along with tea fairs. One of the main objectives will be to promote the consumption of Darjeeling tea abroad and get the domestic market better acquainted with it.

An Indian Tea Association spokesperson said, "We would like to tackle both the domestic and export segments separately. On the export front, we would like to institutionalise our past efforts by getting the Tea Board to partner us through their tea promotion schemes and '555' agenda, which has as its key focus the US, Russia, Iran, Kazakhstan and Pakistan."

The 555 agenda is a three-point central plan to boost exports by promoting the beverage in five countries over a period of five years with five strategies.

"For starters, we want to kick off the Pakistan-Iran programme in the first week of March before business winds down prior to the Persian New Year (March 20). This will be an Indian Tea Association-constituted delegation while the board will help us structure it," the spokesperson added.

Engagements with regulatory authorities, government agencies and the commerce ministry will be lined up in Iran. The Russian visit, which will cover Moscow and Saint Petersburg, has been scheduled for May-June. Kazakhstan ' a market for plainer, value-for-money tea ' will be next in line while the US visit is in September. The US is showing signs of a greater intake of speciality tea.

"Darjeeling tea will remain central to our plans as it is concentrated currently on the export market. It has seasonality issues and its acceptability comes down as the season varies. The Indian consumer has to get better acquainted with this tea beyond the seasonality bracket. We will have to ensure it is taken during the remainder of the year.

"We would ideally want to do B2C (business-to- consumer) as a variation this time. B2B always exists. We will organise our programme in such a manner so that we get an opportunity to get a direct response from the consumer on tea after sampling," the spokespeson said.

India exports around 40 million kg of tea to Russia and 13 million kg to Iran. Trade with the latter has declined owing to a payment crisis following US sanctions on the country.

The US imports about 12 million kg.

"The US is steadily climbing up the ladder in terms of consumption of high-value speciality tea. There is evidence that they like to drink hot tea as is the case in most mature tea drinking nations. We will explore retail chains and boutiques there," he said.

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