Lobby might hit Nepal tea export
By Modnath Dhakal
Kathmandu, Aug. 13: Nepal exports about 80 per cent of its tea to the Indian market, mainly to Siliguri. But Indian entrepreneurs are trying to label Nepal tea as substandard.
“Darjeeling Tea Association (DTA) and Tea Board India (TBI) are lobbying to persuade the government that the tea from Nepal is substandard,” said Udaya Chapagain, past President of the Himalayan Orthodox Tea Producers Association (HOTPA), and a tea entrepreneur for the last three decades.
The tea export to India, like other agricultural products, is functioning on the generosity of India, it’s not rule-based, said Chapagain.
Tea entrepreneurs of the eastern hills fearing that the largest importer might impose Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) like delaying the testing of the tea at the Central Food Lab (CFL) India which will increase the cost of trade as the producers and traders have to pay additional detention charges in case the containers were hold the border.
According to Chapagain, Indian entrepreneurs and Tea Board are for maintaining the monopoly of the Darjeeling Tea in the domestic as well in the international market.
National Tea and Coffee Development Board (NTCDB) is also aware about the situation. “We have received the information about their concern to the growing market of Nepali tea in India. However, it would be immature to say that there would be any sort of embargo on the export,” said Acting Executive Director of the NTCDB Deepak Khanal.
During the strikes in Darjeeling a couple of years ago, Nepali tea was one of the most sought-after goods in India even in the hills of
Darjeeling. Since the industries in Darjeeling were not producing tea, traders themselves had come to Nepali producers to buy the product.
Khanal also suspects delayed CFL tests and detention of the container trucks to India and third countries if the DTA and TBI got success in persuading the government against Nepali tea.
“But the quality of Nepali tea is one of our major strength, and all the tea traders in India are not against our products. At the same time, we can try to send our products to new markets as well,” he said.
Concentrated export market is a major challenge for Nepali tea. Though there were efforts to find newer markets in Europe, Americas and Gulf countries, the country has failed to implement a common trademark ‘Nepal Tea’ despite multiple year’s effort.
Entrepreneurs have blamed the high politicisation of the common trademark which is fulfilling the interest of traders who have nothing to do with the promotion of Nepali products in the international markets.