Press Release 97/28

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Press Release 97/28


ROME, July 1 -- World tea production reached a record level of 2,691,000 tons in 1996 and was 3 percent (about 75,000 tons) higher than in 1995, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reported today. Since global output for 1997 is expected to be lower and demand is likely to remain stable, consumers will face higher world tea prices.

In Sri Lanka and in most tea producing countries of Africa, extremely dry weather adversely affected crops, particularly in Kenya where production in the first quarter was about 37 percent lower than in the same period in 1996, FAO said.

The Organization announced its figures and analysis in a paper prepared for the meeting of the Intergovernmental Group on Tea in Bali, Indonesia, 2-4 July 1997.

According to FAO, in 1996 harvests were larger in almost all major tea producing countries. In India, production increased by 4 percent to set a new record of 778,900 tons. In Africa, Uganda reported an increase of 26 percent, Malawi of
8 percent and Zimbabwe of 6 percent. Due to drought in Tanzania production was about 16 percent lower.

World tea exports rose by about 2.6 percent to 1,105,000 tons last year. With 244,200 tons Kenya became, by a small margin, the world’s leading exporting country. Similarly, Sri Lanka’s exports increased from 235,700 tons in 1995 to
244,000 tons in 1996. A major expansion in exports by 21 percent to 96 000 tons was recorded by Indonesia.

In spite of a record harvest, exports from India declined by 6 percent to 154,000 tons, reflecting rising domestic consumption and a significant decline in its international market share. Exports from China, mainly green tea, declined slightly from 171,700 tons to 169,600 tons in 1996.

World tea imports were larger in 1996 (1,108,500 tons) than in 1995 (1,066,700 tons). Total imports by developed countries rose by nearly 5 percent in 1996 to 612,800 tons. The shipments to the world’s largest importing country, the United Kingdom, recovered by more than 9 percent, to 148,500 tons. This rise did not, however, signal a fundamental change in the UK’s downward trend in consumption.

Total imports by developing countries rose from 484,300 tons to 495,800 tons in 1996. However, FAO voiced particular concern about the decline in import demand in major developing countries in recent years. In 1994-96, imports by developing countries were about 4 percent lower than in 1991-93 as shipments to the Islamic Republic of Iran slumped by 46 percent and to Saudi Arabia by 19 percent.

Import demand in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) rose slightly from 160,700 tons to 162 800 tons in 1996. In the Russian Federation, tea consumption is currently estimated at 143,061 tons. In the longer run, FAO expects Russia’s per caput consumption not to be much higher. However, Russians are expected to drink more high quality tea than in the past.

Tea production and exports contribute to achieving food security in many countriers, FAO said. In 1994/95 tea exports generated 55 percent of total agricultural export earnings in Sri Lanka and 33 percent in Kenya. In most of the major exporting countries tea is mainly produced by smallholders.

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