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Tea export to Russia seen to dip to 80 mkg

Our Bureau

KOLKATA, July 17

TEA exports to Russia will be around 80 million kg (mkg) in 2001, down from 86 mkg in 2000, according to Mr N.K. Das, Chairman of Tea Board.

Mr Das was addressing newspersons here along with the representatives of the eight-member Russian tea delegation that just completed a three-day visit. The delegation met Union Commerce Ministry officials and members of the tea industry both from north a nd south India.

Mr Ustim G. Shteiman, leader of the Russian delegation, however, felt that the Indian exports would not cross 70 mkg in the current year.

``In the first five months of the current year, Indian exports were about 20 mkg. By the end of the year, it would be around 70 mkg,'' he said. Mr Shteiman is an advisor to the Russian Agriculture Ministry and the President of Roschai, a body of Russian tea traders.

The two sides differed over the estimates of the probable size of Indian tea exports to Russia in 2000. The Tea Board officials would put it at 86 mkg but the Russians estimated it at ``a little less than 100 mkg.''

An eight-member core committee has also been formed with four representatives each from two countries. The committee will meet twice a year to discuss and oversee necessary developments in tea production, consumption, statistics, quality, development and promotion of Indian tea.

The Russians want to buy more of quality tea from the Darjeeling, Assam and Nilgiris. ``The nature of tea consumption is changing.

The Russians are willing to pay more for the quality tea. So, we would like to import more quality tea from these regions,'' a member of the delegation said.

A member of Roschai, representing about 60 per cent of the Russian tea traders, said that Indian tea was facing stiff competition from other beverages and also tea from other countries. The per capita tea consumption in Russia was one kg and the number o f cups consumed was slowly increasing, he said.

Regarding the rupee-rouble trade in tea, Mr Das said discussions were still on and nothing had been finalised as yet. Mr Shteiman, however, assured that Indian tea would continue to be a favourite of the Russians.

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