India is one of the leading producers and exporters of tea in the world. India’s tea production was estimated at around 24 per cent of global tea production in 2012, while its exports accounted for around 11.6 per cent of global tea exports during the year. India also happens to be the world’s largest consumer of tea with consumption reaching 911 million kg in 2013-14.
Some of the key export markets for Indian tea include Russia, UK, Sri Lanka, Iran, UAE, Pakistan, Germany, Japan, Kazakhstan, Australia, Netherlands, Ireland and Poland. West Asian nations form the largest market for Indian tea – accounting for almost 25 per cent of exports. CIS countries on the other hand accounted for around 23.5 per cent of India’s exports in 2010-11. The country’s exports are largely in the form of bulk tea, which was estimated to have contributed around 78 per cent of total exports in 2011-12. Tea bag exports have grown at a rate of 7 per cent between 2007-08 and 2011-12.
Some of the key drivers of India’s competitiveness in the tea sector include strong geographical indications, huge investments in tea processing units, continuous innovations, augmented product mix and strategic expansion. In addition players in the Indian tea industry benefit immensely from a well-established research and development infrastructure with institutions like UPASI Tea Research Foundation (Tamil Nadu), Darjeeling Tea Research Centre (West Bengal), Indian Institution of Plantation Management (Karnataka), etc. The sector is one of the country’s major employers, providing livelihoods to around 3.5 million workers across some 1,500 tea estates. India is home to some of the world’s largest tea producers like McLeod Russell India Ltd (B M Khaitan group), Amalgamated Plantations, Goodricke Group, Assam Tea Co, Jay Shree Tea & Industries Ltd (a B K Birla Group enterprise), etc. Some of the major exporters include Hindustan Unilever Ltd, Mcleod Russell India, Girnar Food & Beverages Pvt Ltd, J V Gokal & Co, Tata Global Beverages Ltd, JFK International Ltd, Assam Co Ltd, etc.
The major tea growing regions of India are in Northeast India – Darjeeling and Dooars in West Bengal and the state of Assam. Nilgiris is the major tea producing region in South India. The country produces a wide variety of tea types, which includes CTC, orthodox, black tea, green tea and organic tea. Notably, India has an indigenous manufacturing base for production of both orthodox and CTC (crush, tear and curl) tea varieties including green tea, which sets the country apart from most other tea producing countries. The country also produces some of the finest varieties of speciality tea like Darjeeling, Assam orthodox, high range Nilgiri, etc.