Lack of organic certification hits Nepal's tea exportsShipments were down 24 percent year-on-year to Rs1.16 billion in the first four months.
Exports of Nepali tea dropped 24 percent year-on-year to Rs1.16 billion in the first four months of the fiscal year due to lack of organic certification.
“International importers do not buy tea without organic certification,” said Deepak Khanal, acting executive director at the National Tea and Coffee Development Board. “As a result, demand for Nepali tea has been falling every passing year.”
Nepal shipped Rs1.55 billion worth of tea during the same four-month period from mid-July to mid-November in the last fiscal year. Annual exports amounted to Rs3.2 billion.
“We have been exporting tea by convincing buyers as it is source certified, but shipments have been gradually falling,” said Khanal. Almost all the tea produced in the country is not organic certified, said Khanal. “We cannot always convince international traders without any proof.”
There is no governing body in the country to provide organic certification to tea, and some tea brands are claiming to be organic without any evidence.
The board has been promoting Nepali tea with logo as a good agricultural practice which, according to Khanal, is just one level below organic certification, but it is not going to help in the long term. “It has become urgent for the government to certify domestically produced tea by incorporating international food quality agencies,” said Khanal.
The board is planning to present a request to the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development to earmark funds for a certification accreditation centre in the coming fiscal year’s budget.
The lab at the Department of Food Technology and Quality Control is able to check a limited number of contents in tea, he added.
Most of the tea is exported through Kakarbhitta, and shippers are asked to produce lab verification here, he said. The department's lab can test a limited number of contents, and this means that shipments can be sent back. This is a big waste of time, energy and money for tea traders, he said. Traders exporting tea to third countries also face the same problem, and this has brought down tea exports.
Domestic consumption of crush, tear, curl (CTC) tea and orthodox tea has increased sharply, and this has also created a slight impact on the export of tea. Domestic consumption has risen due to a spreading tea culture, said Khanal. Rising urbanisation has led to an increase in the number of tea drinkers, he added. There were few orthodox tea drinkers in the past, but more people are quaffing orthodox tea these days due to growing health consciousness.
According to the board, the country produces 25 million kg of tea annually—20 million kg of CTC tea and 5 million kg of orthodox tea. Almost all the CTC tea produced in Nepal comes from Jhapa while orthodox tea is produced in the eastern hilly districts including some parts of western Nepal.
Province 1 accounts for almost 95 percent of the tea produced in the country. Commercial tea production is being expanded to 13 districts beside the five districts in the eastern region.
Commercial tea production is being expanded to Lalitpur, Lamjung, Nuwakot, Kaski, Bhojpur, Sankhuwasabha, Kabhre, Ramechhap, Dolakha and other districts, he said. Lamjung is known for producing high-quality tea, almost all of which is exported, mostly to Germany, he added.
Currently, 80 percent of Nepal's tea exports go to India while the United States, Germany, Canada and Japan receive 10 percent of the shipments.
Khanal said that China had been showing interest in tea produced in Nepal. Commercial tea farming is being done on 28,000 hectares of land, as per the board.
In recent years, Nepali orthodox tea has been gaining popularity in the international market mainly due to its quality, aroma and taste.