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Tea industry unhappy with Centre's no to tea as 'national drink'

Supratim Dey  |  Kolkata/ Guwahati 

The Assam tea industry is unhappy with the Centre’s negative stand on declaring tea as the ‘national drink’ of India.

The Centre feels that according tea as ‘national drink’ status might be at the cost of the prospects of coffee, and moreover it doesn’t have any criterion to accord such status to any particular product or commodity.

“There are no fixed criteria for according national status to any particular product or commodity. However, a proposal to declare tea as the national drink of India was earlier examined during 2006 in consultation with the Central ministries and departments concerned and the states and Union Territories.

The matter was not pursued further as objections were raised by some of the state governments and it was felt that coffee is a competing beverage and both have respective market shares and declaring one particular beverage as a ‘national drink’ will likely be at the cost of the other,” said Jyotiraditya Scindia in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.

The tea industry is of the view that both tea and coffee have respective market shares and declaring tea as ‘national drink’ will in no way harm the market prospects of coffee.

It also feels that tea is “indigenous” to India and hence the beverage deserves to be declared as the ‘national drink’ of India. Since tea is consumed by large sections of people, it is also felt that declaring tea as the ‘national drink’ would contribute to its brand building exercise.

“Declaring tea as the ‘national drink’ will never be "at the cost of coffee" as both the beverages have their own respective market shares. Was the declaration of mango as the national fruit at the cost of apple or other fruits? Did declaration of hockey as the national sport in any way affect cricket, football and other sports?” said Bidyananda Barkakoty, chairman of North Eastern Tea Association (NETA).

He added that as per ORG Indian Tea Consumption Study 2008, 83 per cent of households in India consume tea, and the penetration of tea in the Indian household is in the range of 96 per cent to 99 per cent; in both urban and rural areas.

“Many countries in the world have their own national drink. National drink is an integral part of a nation's identity and self-image, history, ecology and culture. Tea is indigenous to India and is an area where India can take a lot of pride. Southern China and Assam are the only two regions in the world with native tea plants,” Barkakoty said.

Barkakoty said he was still optimistic that the Centre would son declare tea as the ‘national drink’ of India.

A joint forum of Assam Tea Planters Association (ATPA), North Eastern Tea Association (NETA) and Bharatiya Cha Parishad (BCP) had appealed the Centre for declaring tea as ‘national drink’ of India. Following the request, Assam had declared tea as its ‘state drink’.

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First Published: Sat, May 19 2012. 00:49 IST