The 5th Global Dubai Tea Forum 2014 (‘GDTF 2014’), hosted by DMCC, wrapped up last Thursday (10 April) with over 350 delegates from 30 different tea producing and consuming countries putting the focus firmly on the challenges of sustainability and related issues currently faced by the industry and with it tea’s ranking as the world’s most popular drink after water.
“Presentations by high profile tea experts from China, India, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Indonesia, Turkey and Iran offered insights into their current production, market patterns and way forward to tackle the major challenges of ever rising production costs and the need to address environment issues,” said Sanjeev Dutta, Director, DMCC Tea Centre.
“However challenges present us with opportunities and this forum offers a chance for us collectively to enable the industry to grow throughout the entire supply chain. Furthermore, due to its geographical location and as the world’s largest re-exporter of tea, Dubai provides an ideal platform to host such an international debate,” added Dutta.
The tea industry is in a healthy state and at first glance it would appear that it has a rosy future. Demand for ready-to-drink (RTD) teas is expected to grow by 6% to 2018 with tea polyphenol-based drinks leading the way. Tea is officially considered as the ‘healthy cup’ with growing demand especially in the USA and Canada. Tea production was up 44% between 2002 and 2012 and is more than twice as popular as coffee, but challenges lie ahead if the tea industry is to be sustainable.
During his presentation, Azam Monem, Director of Marketing, McLeod Russell and Vice Chairman of the Indian Tea Association, the sustainability challenges in India fall into four categories; agricultural issues; quality and safety; rising production costs; social issues. Measures discussed tended to ‘go back to nature’ by restoring the environment in the best possible way, through soil improvement, water management and irrigation, integrated pest management, the further planting of shade trees and complementary crops, and move forward in a constructive way by sharing science and experience.
“The industry also has to manage production costs to stop prices rising and potentially reducing consumption. Yet it is essential that the industry retains its workforce with competitive pay and if further mechanisation is introduced, training must be given to maintain quality levels,” said Barbara Dufrene, LD, La Novelle Presse du Thé, during her presentation.
Compounding the situation, small independent tea farmers worldwide account for approximately 73% of labour and around 60% of the production, presenting the industry first of all with a challenge to accommodate any sustainable change.
“The tea industry needs to keep farmers fully engaged to cope with the threat of global warming and the increasingly erratic weather patterns while taking urgent steps towards improved GAP regulations,” added Dufrene.
In a rounded discussion, some of the major consumer markets highlighted the main features of their domestic consumption, such as Russia expressing concerns about a stagnation in tea consumption. On a more positive note, trends for RTD teas in the USA and Canada, is increasing the premium and origin tea niche and also fast developing a family of tea products, called functional drinks, based on tea polyphenols and specifically geared to health issues.
In addition, contributions by the ancillary industries assessed the improvements offered by state-of-the-art technology for product enhancement and added value. Better volume management can be made through the use of tea bags – the creation of a new generation of tea bag paper, based on a tropical plant fibre – abaca- which is fully sustainably grown by small holders in the Philippines and Costa Rica.
The two day event saw discussions and debates related to the latest tea industry trends, challenges and opportunities from brands through to the innovations, customer focus and supply chain management across the sector.
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Wednesday, April 16- 2014 @ 13:19 UAE local time (GMT+4) Replication or redistribution in whole or in part is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Mediaquest FZ LLC.