India’s tea regulator has issued fresh rules to curb shipments of low-priced Kenyan tea into the Asian country to protect its farmers from loss of market, stoking fears of a trade spat between the two countries.
The Tea Board of India (TBIA) issued circulars to tea stockists on reporting about the quantity and quality of imports from Kenya to rein in shipments.
Indian farmers are complaining that cheaper Kenyan and Nepalese teas are being blended with local produce, and then sold on as tea of Indian origin to their disadvantage.
The Indian tea regulator threatened to cancel licences of local importers if they are found flouting the new rules.
“The board has taken the right decision to curb the entry of cheap teas to the country, which is being sold in the world markets as teas of Indian origin and thereby tarnishing the image of Indian tea,” Tea Board chairman P.K. Bezbaruah was quoted saying.
The latest move comes weeks after Indian tea producers and exporters asked their government to limit shipments of lower-priced Kenyan tea into the Asian country.
The move is a blow to Kenyan tea farmers at a time the government has been courting countries including India to grow and diversify Kenya’s export markets for tea amid a production glut.
In September, the Kolkata-based Indian Tea Association whose members represent more than 60 percent of India’s total tea production urged the Indian government to introduce a minimal import value for teas from Kenya.
India is among the world’s largest producers of black tea alongside China. But compared to Kenya, India’s tea export growth in global markets has been trailing Kenya.
Kenya has especially been giving tough competition to India’s black tea exporters by offloading the commodity at a much cheaper price since its production has gone up significantly.
According to the Kenyan Tea Directorate, Kenya exported 2.8 million kilos of the green leaf between January and June to India, up from 1.5 million kilos in the same period last year.