India’s best-known commodity export— tea—earned less foreign exchange in the first nine months of 2012, with lower volumes dragging down earnings, according to official statistics.

During the period, all the three global majors, in black tea exports, suffered a decline which was the sharpest for India. Kenya and Sri Lanka too saw reduced exports in this period but the blow was softer.

Between January and September 2012, India exported 125.7 million kg of tea valued at Rs. 2,203.09 crore. The 22.7 million kg drop in export volume was sharper in the south than the north. Northern India tea estates exported 74 million kg during this period compared to 81.6 million exported in the same period last year.

Compared to the 7.5 million kg drop suffered by the north, the tea gardens in the south saw a 15.2 million kg drop in exports which stood at 51 .7 million kg.

Consequent upon such a stiff drop in volumes, overall earnings were lower in the south although unit prices at Rs. 113.6 per kg were higher. Overall earnings stood at Rs. 2203.1 crore with a unit price of Rs. 175.3 per kg, compared to Rs. 2234.6 crore with a unit price of Rs 150.6 per kg.

Statistics released by Tea Board show that India lost exports in all its markets with the biggest losses being accounted for by the CIS (its largest market), besides U.K., Pakistan, Iran , Iraq and the UAE.

Industry sources said that while global recession was among the reasons behind sliding exports, the assurance of the domestic market made it easy for the industry to find a ready market. India’s tea production too was lower during this period, with the output estimated at 902.3 million kg between January and October 2012 which was 16 million kg lower than the comparable period last year.

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