KARACHI: The per capita consumption of tea in Pakistan is one of the highest in the world with about one kilogram and is continuously increasing due to increase in demand.
The annual per capita consumption in the world is 0.75 kg. The average consumption in the United States is 0.35 kg, Australia 2.7 kg, Iran 2.4 kg, Sri Lanka 1.45 kg, India 0.52 kg, China 0.3 kg and Japan 0.94 kg and in Turkey it is 2.15 kg.
Many of these countries are not only self-sufficient in production but are also net exporters. Pakistan is a small producer but high per capita consumer. The import of 150,000 tonnes of tea reached 170,000 tonnes in 2010. The average annual tea imports come to Rs17.4 billion in 2008-09 — putting massive burden on the national exchequer.
Tea is used as common beverage in almost all over the world. Pakistan is the fourth largest tea importer of the world, after Russia, United Kingdom and Egypt.
Pakistan has a market of 170 million kg for black tea, which is imported from 21 countries including Kenya, Indonesia, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Black tea is the only kind of tea that is subject to international quality regulations.
To meet the demand, Pakistan reportedly imported tea $120 million in 1998-99 to $210 million in 1999-00, showing an increase of over 65 per cent. Its imports were Rs9.611 billion in 2001-02, increased to Rs12.965 billion in 2006-07, Rs6.53 billion in 2007-08 and Rs17.417 billion in 2008-09.
The imports during the 9 months of the last fiscal year (2009-10), were as high as Rs16.9 billion. It is estimated that at the end of this decade Pakistan would be the biggest buyer of black tea in the world.
Tea prices in Pakistan have increased almost six times since 1990-91. The price of a tea packet of 250 kg was Rs20 that increased to Rs54 in 2000-01, Rs62 in 2004-05, Rs68 in 2006-07, Rs98 in 2008-09 and Rs119 in during July-April 2009-10.
Tea smuggling is the main problem that is not only hurting genuine tea importers but also depriving national exchequer. During 2006 about 48,000 tonnes of tea was brought illegally into Pakistan as compared to 40,000 tonne in 2004-05, causing a revenue loss of Rs2 billion. The tea smuggled further increase to 100,000 tonne in 2009-10.