The Tea Board of India, an undertaking of the ministry, is working with planters' body UPASI to open an export base in Cairo after identifying Egypt, Iran and Pakistan as thrust areas.
Egypt's state-run Misr Import and Export is willing to provide accommodation for the proposed India Tea Promotion Center. The focus at this point will be on Egypt, where Indian tea occupied a substantial presence till the early nineties, and Iran as Pakistan is unlikely to figure in the ministry's scheme of things in the politically-charged atmosphere after 26/11. A team also visited Iran to sort out issues related to banking and letters of credit from Iranian banks.
Past complaints over quality of Indian tea exports, where the samples shown by an exporter often did not match the consignments, have this time evoked proposals that mandatory pre-shipment inspection by a panel of experts be carried out to match the samples with that of tea being dispatched if the business is transacted through this center.
During 1981, India exported 18.76 million kg, or 35%, of the 53 million kg tea imported by Egypt. After the COMESA trade agreement came into force among the African countries in 1994, importing tea from India became more expensive on account of higher duties. This opportunity was utilized by Kenya which wrested substantial market share. From an average of 13.5 million kg from 1971 to 1990, tea imports from India came down to 5.6 million kg in the nineties and less than half a million kg from 2001 to 2005.
Egypt has since 2006 rationalized import duty structure, making it attractive for Indian tea exporters. Export of Indian tea too has gone up to nearly five million kg in 2007. India is now looking at exporting 15-20 million kg this year. The new base will aim at building on the changed situation.