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Increased Russian enquiries for Indian tea

By Our Staff Correspondent

KOLKATA, MARCH 20. The tea industry is expecting an upturn in prices in 2004. Early indications suggest that a lower crop is expected. Last year, the tea crop was 31 million kg higher while exports dropped to 165 million kg from 198 million kg in 2002.

According to the Indian Tea Association, in sharp contrast to 2003, the tea crop was down by one million kg in January and will remain lower due to a combination of reasons including climatic conditions.

"We are expecting a correction in prices beginning next season," said the ITA Secretary General, M. Dasgupta.

His views were supported by Bharat Arya of J. V. Gokal & Co, one of the leading packet tea exporters to Russia and the high value market Kazakhstan. With Sri Lankan prices ruling at comparatively higher levels, J. V. Gokal is witnessing a marked increase in the number of enquiries from Russia and other CIS countries.

With the Russian economy largely stabilised from the aftershock of opening up, they are once again emerging as a buyer of quality orthodox tea and are likely to shift their focus back on North India.

Iraq which cut its imports from India to about 10 million kg in 2003 from 43 million kg in 2002, is expected to replenish its stocks once again.

There are hopes of reopening of the Iran market and making a renewed entry in the once lost Egypt. But the Tea Board is in talks with Libya which stopped buying from India since 1999 in protest against `export of substandard teas'.

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