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Cola-crazy US now turns to freshly brewed Indian tea

Kohinoor Mandal

Kolkata , Aug. 3

COLA-LOVING Americans have started taking a close interest in freshly brewed Indian tea. So keen is their interest that they have even formulated strategies aimed at facilitating the entry of Indian players into the US markets.

The Indian Tea Association (ITA) has also responded enthusiastically to this positive development. Leading members of the association huddled at a closed-door meeting recently to study the American proposals.

Industry sources said that America is a big tea consuming market with an annual consumption of 80-90 million kg. However, India's presence in the market is almost negligible. In 2000, it registered its highest export to the US in the recent times with a volume of only 7.47 million kg. In 2001, this dropped to around 6.5 million kg. The following year it went up to 7.35 million kg.

Americans mostly favour cold tea and Argentina is one of the leading tea exporters to that country. It is also good market for tea bags and instant tea. Sources said that Chinese tea was prominent in the American markets but Sri Lanka's presence was insignificant.

"Indian companies like Goodricke, Eveready and The Maud Tea Co are exporting tea to the US. However, the quantity is almost nothing compared to the potential," an industry expert told Business Line.

Against such a backdrop, the New York office of Tea Board initiated a dialogue with the US Tea Council with a view to doubling Indian exports to America. The US Tea Council is said to have responded warmly.

In a letter to Mr Sanjay Kumar Krishna, Tea Board's New York-based Director of Tea Promotion, the President of the US Tea Council, Mr Joseph P. Simrany, showed his eagerness to create a "stage for a renaissance for Indian teas".

Mr Simrany agreed that Indians had an excellent product basket of speciality teas and pointed out the price disadvantage. So he suggested that Indians must come up with "intelligent ideas" of competing in the American market and they should be based on its "inherent advantages".

The US Tea Council has also listed out long-term and short-term initiatives for the Indian tea industry. It asked the Indians to focus on the quality and the high content of antioxidants in it.

Representatives of leading tea companies like Hindustan Lever, Tata Tea, Eveready Industries, George Williamson, AFT Industries, Wagh Bakri and others participated in the ITA meeting.

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