China’s tea preferences shift from green to black

China, a traditionally green tea-growing nation, is gradually shifting to black tea production. The country, which is already present in the international market, will eventually compete with India, industry insiders think.

A delegation from China came to India last month to take stock of Indian production. The delegation met Tea Board chairman MGKV Bhanu and spoke to industry leaders on black tea production, sources said.

The shift in Chinese preferences started after the people started moving to black tea instead of traditional green tea. "It seems their import of black tea has been increasing gradually," said Monojit Dasgupta, the secretary general of the Indian Tea Association.

According to Tea Board estimates, China produced around 1,600 million kg tea in 2011, of which nearly 70% of the production is green tea. "At present they are trying to meet the growing demand of black tea among the Chinese population," Dasgupta said.

While the industry experts think China would initially try to increase their black tea production to cater to the increasing domestic demand, it will eventually try to compete India in the international market.

"They are gradually shifting to black tea. But I don't think they can be an immediate competitor to Indian tea merchants," said Piyush Desai, the chairman of Wagh Bakri Group.

Green tea production in China increased from little more than 500 million kg in 2001 to 1,046 million kg in 2010. China exported around 234 million kg of green tea in 2010 against 163 million kg in 2001. Its share of exports in the global green tea market has come down from 87% in 2003 to 78% in 2007. It further rose to 79% in 2010.

China exported around 322.58 million kg tea in 2011 against 302.53 million kg in 2011. India exported around 193 million kg in 2011 against 302.53 million kg in 2010. China has been the highest producer of tea in the world and the second largest exporter of the crop in last five years. In 2010, China's domestic market consumed about 1.10 million tonnes tea.

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