Growing taste for Sri Lankan tea among Chinese youth triggers export boom
ECONOMYNEXT- Chinese youth are acquiring a taste for Sri Lanka’s black tea, with shipments to China, mainly a green tea market, growing strongly this year, Sri Lanka Tea Board Chairman Lucille Wijewardena said.
“From nothing about three to five years ago, last year they bought 10 million plus kilos of tea,” Wijewardena told economynext.com in an interview.
In the first quarter of this year, almost 2.8 million kilos of ‘Ceylon tea’ were exported to China, up 210,300 kilograms or 8.2 percent from a year ago.
China’s market share of total Sri Lankan tea exports in the first quarter was 3.77 percent, up slightly from a year ago..
“These numbers are huge,” Wijewardena said. “And this is a great opportunity for our industry as we are now open to a market with the highest population in the world.”
Wijewardena attributed the surge in tea exports to China mainly to Chinese youth developing a liking for consuming black tea with milk.
“And that is going to be a big market for us,” he said, noting that they expect exports to China to increase further.
China was the seventh highest export market for ‘Ceylon tea’ in March this year, ahead of other key markets like Syria, Germany and Japan.
Iraq was the top buyer of Sri Lankan tea in 2018, importing almost 10 million kilograms of tea, up by 4.02 percent from a year ago.
Prices for Sri Lankan tea are higher when compared with other competing countries like Kenya.
Wijewardena said Sri Lankan tea carries a premium quality image, which attracts higher demand and global recognition.
That’s why consumers in a big market like China resort to buying Sri Lankan tea instead of many others like CTC type tea which is what Kenya mainly produces.
“Fortunately the ethnic problem has not affected us.” Wijewardena said referring to recent turmoil within the country. “Transportation takes place and auctions are going on as usual.
“We didn’t have a single auction which was canceled. We got security for such possible cases and so far no disruptions were seen.”
(COLOMBO 21 May 2019)
Kithmina Hewage- Institute of Policy Studies