Focus on quality is one of the reasons that helped south Indian teas see higher prices this year, according to the Executive Director of the Tea Board, R. Ambalavanan.

The latest trends on the crop prospects for 2012 suggest lower tea production in the first six months and this has resulted in brisk activity at the auctions. Prices are expected to remain strong during the year.

Speaking to The Hindu recently at Coonoor, on the sidelines of the UPASI (United Planters’ Association of Southern India) annual conference, Mr. Ambalavanan said that the average price of south Indian teas in 2011-12 was Rs.77.44 a kg. This year, so far, it was over Rs.80 a kg (factory sale price).

Tea prices had strengthened also because of the focus on quality. The initiatives of the Tea Board had helped in this regard, he said.

The board worked with the producers and the buyers. If the prices of any consignment were below Rs.70 a kg, samples were taken and tested. Recently, this was increased to Rs.80 a kg. “We are hoping on quality initiatives to fetch better prices.” The prices could be sustained next year too if the quality was maintained, he said.

Speaking at the conference, he said that tea exports during 2011-12 were nearly 191 million kg and the average unit price was Rs.150 a kg. Some of the challenges faced by the industry were minimising cost of production, ensuring reasonable price recovery, improving India’s share in the global market and offering optimum quality teas to the consumers at a reasonable price.

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