Tea producers want Tea Board to push branding agenda

Azam Monem, vice-chairman and A K Bhargava, chairman, Indian Tea Association at a press meet in Kolkata. Photo: Subrata Majumder
Faced with lower price realisations from tea auctions and a nominal three per cent increase in domestic tea consumption, the Indian tea industry is planning to seek extensive marketing campaign from the Tea Board. According to the Indian Tea Association (ITA), which represents tea producers from West Bengal and Assam, the youth is not attracted towards drinking tea. Around 15 per cent of those aged between 15 and 24 years consume at least one cup of tea every day, while others are attracted towards newer, trendy beverages, says ITA.

“The companies have been marketing their own brands to increase sales but an initiative needs to be taken by the Tea Board to create awareness about tea consumption now,” said Azam Monem, vice-chairman, ITA. Tea producers have pegged India’s average per capita consumption at 733 grams. ITA says the Tea Board of India’s ‘Trust Tea’ certification can be one of the tools to regularise the supply chain right from the bush to the cup. ‘Trust Tea’ certifies that a product adheres to prescribed environmental and socio-economic norms of production — something similar to the Rainforest Alliance certification.

ITA says the responsibility of popularising tea lies with the Tea Board of India. “Branding and creating awareness requires funding and it is here that we are looking up to the government for support,” said Arijit Raha, general secretary of ITA.

A higher demand for tea in the retail market necessarily implies higher price realisation. Sometime back, the Tea Board had undertaken a six-moth long branding exercise titled ‘Chai Piyo, Mast Jiyo’ which saw mixed responses. The ITA now wants the tea regulator to take the branding campaign further on the lines of the Rainforest Alliance which provides credibility to the producers for sticking to prescribed norms. A consumer survey on sustainable tea and coffee by ‘Trust Tea’ stated that consumers desired more information on the methods of cultivation, safety standards used, the social issues involved and the environmental impact of cultivating tea and coffee.

The study further stated that 47 per cent of those surveyed consumed less than two cups of tea in a day and 43 per cent were drinking between two and four cups of tea per day. Only six per cent consumed between four and six cups and four per cent consumed more than six cups of tea per day.

“In the last 10 years, while input costs have increased at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 10 per cent, tea prices have grown at a CAGR of only 6-7 per cent,” ITA Chairman Ashok Kumar Bhargava said.

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