Guwahati: A body of tea planters on Saturday said exports of the commodity will be adversely impacted due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

The shipment of Indian tea has already been hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the geopolitical situation after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine would aggravate it further, Tea Association of India (TAI) president Ajay Jalan said.

The payment issue with Iran, one of the largest importers of Indian tea, is also another challenge for tea exporters, he said.

Addressing the 35th biennial general meeting of TAI, Assam Branch, Jalan said, “I stand before you at a critical juncture when the world is witnessing a major war in Europe wherein the Western countries have swiftly introduced draconian economic measures.”

The volume of India’s tea export to countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), including Russia, is 58-65 million kgs, he said, adding that “the war is bound to affect trade in this region”.

Coupled with the fact that India has an ongoing payment issue with Iran, the country stares at a sharp decline in export figures. The tea export for 2021 stuck at 195.50 million kgs as against 256 million kgs in 2018, the TAI president said.

Speaking on key issues concerning the tea industry in the country, Jalan pitched for agri-tech innovations to make sure that production costs remain sustainable.

Technological deployments, besides improving productivity, shall also meet the void of the ever-decreasing workforce in tea gardens. The dearth of workers is witnessed in all spheres of economic activities and more so in labour-intensive industries such as tea,” he said.

The tea sector currently suffers from absenteeism ranging between 30 and 40 per cent across various tea growing regions of the country, Jalan claimed.

“Since the quality of leaf plucked determines the quality of tea, requirement of the due number of pluckers cannot be but overemphasised harnessing of technology to aid the industry assumes importance,” he said.

Jalan stated that tea production in India has risen from 945 million kgs in 2005 to 1,329 million kgs in 2021, which outstripped consumption of the beverage in the country, leading to stagnant prices for planters.

“Much of the growth in production is because of the fast emergence of small tea growers. Their output has increased from around 236 million Kgs in 2005 to 680 million Kgs in 2021. In this period, the production from the organised estates has stayed basically stagnant at around 650-700 million kgs, he added.

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