Special Correspondent

KOLKATA: Tea exports in 2009 were 11.6 million kg less but earnings have increased amid a shrinking world market that is struggling to emerge from the downturn.

Crop was lower in the world's largest tea producing country, India, but the losses of the first-half were made-up in good measure after September.

Exports are estimated at 191.49 million kg according to Union Commerce Ministry sources as compared to 203.1 million kg between January and December 2008. However, the unit price of Indian tea increased by nearly 16 per cent to touch Rs. 136.64 a kg against 117 a kg. a year before. Earnings are estimated at Rs. 2,616 crore as compared to Rs. 2,392 crore.

Tea Board Chairman Basudeb Banerjee told The Hindu that exports were expected to be flat but prices had shown a fair increase.