The Next Wave of Panic Buying Will Be for Tea Bags as Pandemic Disrupts Exports

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We Brits love our tea – so much so we even sacked off the Americans when they chucked a load of it in the sea, proving how undeserving they were of our prized beverage. But the supply chain has been affected by coronavirus – just like everything else has – resulting in delayed shipments and hiked up prices.

With everyone self isolating or in lockdown, leaf-picking season has been affected, and that goes for the world’s top tea exporters – China, India, Kenya, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam – who make up 82 per cent of global tea exports. Weather has also factored into the equation, with chillier temperatures in India, China, and Sri Lanka also contributing to the problem.

India appears to have been affected the most, with plantations missing the first flush as the country was ordered to sat indoors. The International Tea Committee (ITC) predicts the countries exports will fall by 7 per cent as a result. Last month, India’s tea exports were down 34 per cent as the lockdown came amidst the initial harvesting period in March. Sri Lanka’s were down by almost 50 per cent.

It’s not all doom and gloom, as Vietnam and Kenya haven’t been hugely affected, with Kenya’s output potentially increasing by 15 per cent, according to the ITC. But all of that disruption will be felt along the supply chain. Russian tea manufacturer Orimi trade has said that shipments of tea from India have been delayed by one month, as have shipments from suppliers in other countries. The price for raw tea has surged by 30 per cent since the pandemic forced everyone into lockdown.

The good news is that last year’s supply for tea exceeded demand, so this shortage is likely to just be a blip. Nazrana Ahmed, chairman of Assam Tea Planters Association (ATPA), said:

“Tea prices were depressed for the last few years. The current supply disruption could provide much needed support.”

So just don’t go mental on buying tea, and we should all be just fine. [Reuters]

Feature image credit: Unsplash

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