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Tata's beverage cos eye Russia

July 29, 2007
The Tata Group through its two leading beverage companies - Tata Tea and Tata Coffee - is looking at developing an Indian brand for tea and coffee in the Russian market. The move is aimed at capturing a sizeable chunk of the Russian tea and coffee market which is gradually shifting from mass market products to premium products.

Addressing the 124th annual general meeting of Indian Tea Association (ITA) the Union minister of state for commerce Jairam Ramesh said: "Tata Tea, Tata Coffee along with some other institutions are planning to launch an Indian brand in tea and coffee for the Russian market. This is being done to increase India's share in tea and coffee in the Russian market. In 2006, India has been able to export 32 million kg of tea to Russia, which is nearly 7 million kg lower than the volume tea exported in 2005."

Russia is gradually embracing the premium orthodox tea. The average hot beverage per capita consumption mix in Russia is the following: the average Russian drinks three cups of hot beverages daily - half of the population drink daily two cups of tea and one cup of coffee.

Percy Siganporia, managing director of Tata Tea however, refused to divulge the company's plan to come out with a brand aimed at the Russian market. "Right now, it will be too premature to comment about this. We always look at new countries to expand our global footprint."

Incidentally, Mr Singaporia's term as chairman of ITA ended on Saturday. Aditya Khaitan, managing director of Mcleod Russel, took over as the chairman of ITA. Aditya Jajodia, CEO and MD of Assam Company has been elected as the vice-chairman of ITA.

Earlier, Mr Ramesh, who has been taking active interest to reopen the closed tea gardens in West Bengal, said that the Central government will invoke section 16 (E) of the Tea Act, 1953 which allows it to hand over the management of the company to a new promoter if the tea garden remains close for more than three months. There are 14 closed tea gardens in West Bengal.

"We have given one month to the owners of closed tea gardens to reopen their estates. If they fail to take any initiative, we will invoke 16(E) and takeover the gardens. We will invite bids which will be evaluated by committee. The committee will have representatives both from the state and central government."

Later in the day Mr Ramesh attended a seminar on agri-export zones (AEZs) where he said that AEZs have failed to take off in the country. "Rather than setting up AEZs, we should try to make an all out effort to export state specific agro products in the world market. For example, West Bengal should try to push pineapples. Similarly states like Jharkhand, Bihar and Orissa should make an effort to export cabbage, litchi and turmeric respectively."