New Delhi: As the bilateral relations between India and Pakistan deteriorate, the meager trade is also going down. There are signs that the export and import between the two nations may come to a complete halt if the air of mistrust, suspicion and military buildup doesn’t stop.
Reports suggest that tea from Assam has been a major casualty since the relations deteriorated in the aftermath of the Uri terrorist attack. Surgical strikes by India in the aftermath of terrorist attacks have ensured that there is no point in expecting the normalization process to begin anytime soon.
Latest reports suggest that tea exports to Pakistan have nosedived by as much as 36 percent to 7.46 million kg for the period January-August 2016. As the fall has been only after the Uri terrorist strikes, it must be inferred that the export of tea from India to Pakistan has completely halted.
An official of Tea Board of India while talking about the sudden ‘suspension’ of exports to Pakistan says, “”Tea is not being shipped through Wagah border. Merchant exporters have started shipping tea to Dubai wholesale merchants. From there, tea is being shipped to Pakistan, enormously increasing costs at the retail consumer end”.
As tea has become an integral part of daily life in the entire Indian Subcontinent, Pakistan has started procuring tea from countries like Kenya and Sri Lanka. “While our teas roughly sell between Rs 110 – Rs 95 per kg, Kenyan teas are priced 30% cheaper. Foreign buyers are not allowed to directly participate in our e-auctions, so merchants have to bid on their behalf,” said the official.
There is no denying that the Darjeeling tea is much better than those from Lanka or Kenya, so the taste buds in Pakistan may not like it much. Says the official “Our teas are rich in flavour and colouring with beautiful reddish-copper tones. So while Pakistan buys cheap teas from Kenya, the corporate and smaller tea retailers there blend/mix our teas for improving the tone and quality of the tea”.
While tea export to Pakistan may be falling from India, nonetheless there has been a surge in tea export to some other nations. The official says, “Exports across sectors have been falling in the last 18 months, but tea exports have generally remained insulated. We continue to export to Russia, Poland, England, Egypt and even China. China, which produces a lot of green tea, is now purchasing black tea from India as the base for specialty teas”.