The Rising Star of Nepali Tea: Filling the Gap in India's Tea Production

The Rising Star of Nepali Tea: Filling the Gap in India's Tea Production
Credit goes to Kathmandu Post

In the world of tea, Nepal is emerging as a rising star. The demand for Nepali tea is surging in the Indian market as production has slipped across the border. This shift is attributed to the aging tea bushes in Indian tea estates, which have reached the end of their life cycles. As these bushes are uprooted, the acreage and output have dropped sharply, creating a gap in the market that Nepali tea growers are stepping in to fill. This article delves into the dynamics of this shift, the factors contributing to it, and the implications for the tea industry in both countries.

The Aging Tea Bushes of India

India is the second-largest tea producer in the world after China, with teas like Assam, Darjeeling, and Nilgiri valued for their strong flavor and intense aroma. These teas are considered to have some of the finest flavors globally and account for 12 percent of global shipments. However, the tea estates in India are going through a lean period as the tea bushes, most of which are 80 years old, and some even more than 100 years old, have reached the end of their life cycles. As these bushes are uprooted, the acreage and output have dropped sharply.

The Rising Demand for Nepali Tea

The decline in Indian tea production has led to a surge in demand for Nepali tea. Udaya Chapagain, the executive director of Gorkha Tea Estate in Ilam, which exports Nepali orthodox tea to Europe and the United States, says there is massive demand for tea in India, and Nepali tea growers should make good use of the opportunity. According to the Department of Customs, Nepal exported 14,784 tonnes of tea worth Rs3.34 billion in the first 10 months of the current fiscal year ended mid-May. Of the total shipments, India accounted for 14,449 tonnes valued at Rs2.99 billion. As per official statistics, nearly 98 percent of the tea produced in Nepal is exported to the Indian market.

The Impact of Indian Policies on Nepali Tea Industry

Last October, India lifted an 11-month-old ban on blending Darjeeling tea with other teas, raising the spirits of the Nepali tea industry which greatly depends on exports to the southern neighbor. Indian tea producers can now mix Nepali tea with their products, but they are not permitted to use the name “Darjeeling” on the mixture. The Indian directive to restrict foreign teas proved to be counterproductive as domestic buyers such as Tata Consumers Products largely remained absent in auctions to procure Darjeeling tea which is blended in their popular Tata Gold pack, according to media reports.

The Quality and Affordability of Nepali Tea

Nepali tea is gaining popularity in the Indian market due to its quality and affordability. Several reports showed that some Indian tea producers in Darjeeling are bringing green leaves from estates across the border in Nepal and selling them as Darjeeling tea, thereby jeopardizing the geographical indication value of Darjeeling tea. An Indian tea entrepreneur said that tea imported from Nepal was sustaining its internal market. “This is because of the quality and low price,” said an Indian trader.

The Impact of Climate Change and Other Factors on Indian Tea Production

Recently, according to Indian media reports, tea production in India has declined as a result of climate change, labor problems, low productivity, and low profitability. “When tea production in India declines, demand for Nepali tea soars,” said Aditya Parajuli, a tea entrepreneur from Bhadrapur. "Demand for Nepali tea jumped in India during the Covid-19 pandemic when Indian production "tea production in Nepal"

The Future of Nepali Tea Industry

The future of the Nepali tea industry looks promising. The country has the potential to increase its tea production and exports significantly. The government of Nepal has been promoting tea cultivation as a way to boost rural incomes and reduce poverty. The country's tea sector has been growing steadily over the past decade, with the area under tea cultivation expanding and production increasing.

According to the National Tea and Coffee Development Board of Nepal, the country produced approximately 26.5 million kilograms of tea in 2019, up from 16.3 million kilograms in 2010. The majority of this tea is exported, with India being the largest market.

However, the Nepali tea industry also faces several challenges. These include a lack of modern processing facilities, inadequate infrastructure, and limited access to finance. In addition, the industry is heavily dependent on the Indian market, which makes it vulnerable to changes in Indian policies and market conditions.

The rise in demand for Nepali tea in the Indian market presents a significant opportunity for the Nepali tea industry. However, to fully capitalize on this opportunity, the industry needs to address its challenges and continue to improve the quality of its tea. This will require investments in infrastructure, technology, and skills development, as well as supportive policies from the government.

The Nepali tea industry has the potential to become a major player in the global tea market. By focusing on quality and sustainability, it can differentiate itself from other tea-producing countries and carve out a niche for itself in the global market. This would not only boost the country's exports and economy but also improve the livelihoods of thousands of smallholder tea farmers in Nepal.

The story of Nepali tea is a testament to the resilience and ingenuity of the country's tea growers. Despite the challenges they face, they have managed to produce high-quality tea that is gaining recognition and demand in the international market. As the Indian tea industry grapples with its own challenges, the Nepali tea industry stands ready to step in and fill the gap.

The future of the Nepali tea industry is bright. With the right strategies and support, it can continue to grow and thrive, contributing to the country's economic development and the well-being of its people. The rise of Nepali tea is not just a story about tea; it's a story about the potential of Nepal and its people. It's a story about how, with determination and hard work, a small country can make a big impact on the global stage.

The Nepali tea industry is on the rise, and it's ready to take its place in the world of tea. So, the next time you sip a cup of tea, consider trying Nepali tea. You might just discover a new favorite.