The government should set up an institutional mechanism to bring out real-time data on production, consumption, trade, and prices for the tea sector, Indian Institute of Plantation Management (IIPM) Director Rakesh Mohan Joshi said on Friday.
He also said there is an urgent need to bring out enabling policies with targeted interventions to address the rapidly emerging novel issues such as climate change, curtailing production costs and achieving efficiency across the value chain in the sector.
To cope with emerging challenges in the tea industry, the government should focus upon adopting an integrated approach to evolve an institutional mechanism with active participation of producing states along with other stakeholders in tea production.
"The tea industry, once a gold mine for the British planters and a major source of foreign exchange earnings that played a critical role in India’s trade and economy in the last century, struggles today even for survival," Joshi said.
India's share in world tea exports has steadily declined from 27 per cent in 1970 to 9.5 per cent in 2022 whereas share of countries like China has increased from 5 per cent to 26.5 per cent and in case of Kenya from 6 per cent to 17.6 per cent during the same period.
He added that in the present-day context, tea production plays a vital role in poverty alleviation, rural development and food security.
The Indian tea industry employs 1.6 million workers directly and an equal number of people is associated with the industry indirectly.
The industry has 2.5 lakh small tea growers contributing 52 per cent of India’s total tea production.
"Rising costs of inputs for tea production domestically on one hand and consistent decline of international tea prices on the other is the biggest challenge the tea industry faces today, making it a formidable task to ensure its commercial viability," he added.
He also said the cost of plantation has increased significantly in India over the last two decades from Rs 25,000 to Rs 30,000 per hectare impacting financial viability of tea production and its international competitiveness.
"Government should also focus on establishing an effective institutional mechanism to bring out real-time data on production, consumption, trade, stocks and prices, and make this data available on real-time basis on public platforms," Joshi said.
Bengaluru-based IIPM, under the commerce ministry, conducts industry need-based capacity building and training programmes for stakeholders of the agri-plantation sector.