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The chief exporting countries are India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Japan. India handles about 38% of the world's tea trade. India consumes 285 million lbs. of her output and about 505 million lbs are exported annually. In 1987-88 India's tea exports amounted to 505 million lbs. against world exports of 1320 million lb. In 1951, India exported 445 million lbs.
The internal consumption of tea being increased, Japan can hardly export 6%, of her output.
In Bangladesh also domestic consumption has increased by 130 per cent.
Sri Lanka is the second biggest tea exporting country. in the world. She supplies about 20% of the world's tea exports. Her exports in 1987-88 amounted to 485 million lbs. against world's tea export of 1320 million lbs.
Tea is traditionally an English drink. Consumption of tea in Britain is 10 lbs. per capita, in Australia 7 lbs. in Canada 4 lbs. and in USA almost neglectful.
Great Britain, West Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, USA Canada Australia and U.S.S.R. are the importers. The U.K. is the largest buyers of tea in the world and accounts for 35% of the world's total. The commonwealth countries consume about 60% of world's total tea. The United Kingdom took 70% of the her tea requirements from India in 1987 against the 1958 figure of 78%. The U.K. remains the best customers of Indian tea consuming as she does about 64% of India's exportable surplus. There is a considerable scope for increasing India's exports to U.S.A. and Russia and the Arab countries provided the standard of quality of tea is maintained and price is reasonable so as to stand against the substitute. The U.S.A. consumes about 125 million lbs. and the supply comes from India, Sri Lanka, Japan and Bangladesh.
India produces tea in the Assam valley and the Surma valley of Cachar, Darjeeling, Dooaras and Terai and Tripura. Although Assam is surrounded on all sides by mountains, it is a level plain and has the greatest concentration of the commercial tea plantation in the world. Cachar is hilly. Darjeeling is a hill district and grows tea at the altitude of 300 meters to 1,800 meters. Jalpaiguri on the other hand has most of its tea estates on the plainland. More than 75% of Indian tea is obtained from Assam and West Bengal. The second tea-producing region, comprising mainly Kerala and Tamil Nadu, contributes nearly 20% of the Indian output.
Assam contributes more than 50% of the total Indian tea production. In the districts of Darrang, Sibsagar, and Lakhimpur, lying in the Upper Brahmaputra Valley, and in Cachar tea plantations cover more than 30% of the sown area. Initially based on river transportation these areas are presently served excellently by both the inland waterways and railways. The opening of Farakka barrage and the resumption of inland navigation via Bangladesh have definitely brought about an improvement upon the transport facilities.
Area under tea cultivation increased from 310 thousand hectares in 1947 to 375 thousand hectares in 1987-88. Increase in production of tea during 1950 to 1984-85 amounted to 35%. Increase in area during the same period was 9 per cent.
Since India has to compete in foreign market with Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Japan and east African countries, the exchange earnings are far from steady. Nevertheless, an increasing trend is quite prominent. The Indian tea holds a strong position in a few selected markets.