A recent visit by an Iranian delegation to the city and its tea gardens has given ground for confidence that India will soon regain its position in the high-value market and double exports by 2014-15.

This was the first visit by a high-level tea delegation from the West Asian country in recent times.

The nine-member delegation, led by the Iran Tea Association’s Chairman, and accompanied by leading importers and government officials, visited the city from August 5 to 9— reciprocating a visit from their Indian counterparts to Iran in March.

Their maiden visit to the tea gardens (in Assam) is believed to have created a favourable impression. “India’s manufacturing facilities are world-class, and Indian teas are very suitable for blending with Iranian teas,” Tea Board Chairman M G V K Bhanu told The Hindu.

They also visited auction centres, and attended tea-tasting sessions where a bouquet of teas from Assam, Cachar, Dooars and Darjeeling were displayed. An interactive session was organised involving all stakeholders, including the Tea Board, Bank, ECGC, Shipping Lines and FIEO, officials of India Tea Association (ITA) said.

The Indian tea industry is chasing a 30 million kg target for exporting premium orthodox teas to Iran. Exports, which slipped in the wake of U.S. sanctions on Iran, has started improving after payments were settled through rupee against oil imports from Iran. However, some problems over export credit guarantee and poor shipping connectivity to Iran still remain.

“Such operational issues were raised by members of the delegation and addressed by us at an interface,” a senior ITA official said.

During the March visit, an MoU was signed with Iran for exporting 30 million kg of tea in two years. This has provided lot of confidence among tea producers in India, which is reflected in orthodox production. In the first half of 2013, ITA members have produced over 15 million kg of orthodox tea against 7.5 million kg in the corresponding period of last year.

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