The producers of the famous Indian tea in the Darjeeling district expressed their wish to get back Russian buyers, according to the Senior Adviser of the Darjeeling Tea Association Sandeep Mukherjee.
“We would like Russia to become our main customer again, an importer of tea. We would prefer Russia to our domestic market,” Mukherjee stated.
Darjeeling is one of the most famous tea producers in India. Due to the special climatic conditions and long-standing traditions, this product is considered elite among the black teas of the country and was named ‘tea champagne’. Until 1991, about 75-80 per cent of tea from this company was exported to the USSR with 14 million kg of production per year. After the collapse of the USSR, the export almost stopped, and since 1995, the company has begun to increase exports to the USA, Germany, France, and Japan.
“But these new markets made other demands, stating that they would buy only organic tea in Darjeeling, that is, grown without the use of chemicals. In Soviet times, this was not the case, and most of the tea coming to you was inorganic. But after 1996, 70 per cent of tea plantations in Darjeeling became organic,” the Senior Adviser explained.
Last time, Russia is buying less and less Indian tea. It is specified that in Russia today, tea from Darjeeling is obtained through the re-export through Germany and several other European countries.
“We are ready to resume contacts with Russia,” Mukherjee said.
As the Russian trade representative in India, Alexander Rybas, noted, the situation is really so that in recent years there has been a tendency to reduce the volume and share of imports of Indian tea to Russia.
“In 2020, about 40 thousand tonnes of tea worth almost $92 million were imported to Russia. At the same time, India accounted for only 27 per cent of the total amount of imported tea. Significant volumes of tea come from Sri Lanka – this is the famous Ceylon tea, which accounts for about a third of imports. And also tea comes to us from China, Kenya. There is also our own small production of Russian Krasnodar tea,” Rybas explained.
He added that Ceylon tea is cheaper than Indian tea. Although the quality of Indian tea is considered the best in a number of parameters, especially the Darjeeling one. However, Russian retail does not currently have a high demand in the “niche of elite varieties”.
“I believe that the situation may change for the better for Indian producers if they independently or jointly with Russian partners open production in Russia for the packaging of their tea. This will allow us to start production here and, by reducing non-production costs, contribute to an increase in sales volumes,” the Russian official concluded.