Unorthodox Shift

Local factions in the tea industry say the Indian threat was looming for over a year, but officials here had made no effort to plan for competition.

Sri Lankan orthodox teas sell at an attractive premium above CTC prices. In addition Sri Lanka dominates the orthodox market controlling well over 75 per cent of supply.

Sri Lanka carved out a niche for itself with the big leaf teas, proving to be very popular with many markets for its appearance, flavour and colour as opposed to CTC teas that fill tea bags.

Vietnam and even Kenya are also reportedly eying the Sri Lankan orthodox market, hoping to follow the Indian example.

Meanwhile, members of the India Tea Association quotes (ITA) expert committee on orthodox teas want to increase the countries production of big leaf teas from around 14 per cent of the 621 million kilo world market.

Other reports from India say that the government is offering cash subsidies for companies moving into orthodox tea manufacture.

The scheme provides 25% subsidy on the cost of up gradation and replacement of plant and machinery for Orthodox production.

In addition, the expert committee has requested the ITA to collect detailed information on the thrust markets in view to formulating a long-term Orthodox export strategy.

Information regarding major tea exporters from India, prevalent brands and grades, prices, major importers and trade regulations is necessary to be at the disposal of the panel to help it formulate the export strategy.

Reports say, if deemed necessary, the Tea Board could also be advised to formulate rules and appoint monitoring agencies to ensure quality standards of Indian tea exports.

Sri Lankan orthodox teas, especially from the low grown elevation set the benchmark for orthodox tea quality, making it hard for countries like India to compete in the same category.