Drinking tea could boost food security, UN agency says

28 June 2010

Calling for more people in tea-producing countries to drink tea, the United Nations agriculture agency has spotlighted the potential for the industry to enhance food security by increasing farmers’ incomes.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), tea exports cover the entire food import bill of Kenya, the world’s largest tea producer after China.

Meanwhile, earnings from tea exports constituted half of agricultural export revenue and 60 per cent of food imports in Sri Lanka, another top producer.

“Tea can be an important contributing factor to a nation’s food security,” said Kaison Chang, Secretary of FAO’s Inter-Governmental Group on Tea, the world’s only tea authority.

In a new report, the agency urged tea-producing nations to market the drink more heavily at home and to publicize its health benefits abroad, cautioning against increasing the size of tea plantations, which would dampen crop prices in the long run.

“Scope for expansion in consumption in traditional import markets like the United Kingdom and Russia is quite limited but in the countries where tea is produced, the per capita consumption is much lower and so there is a lot more market potential,” Mr. Chang pointed out.

Consumers in tea-producing countries drink just one-tenth of the amount of tea compared to people in mature import markets, FAO said.

The agency’s composite price for tea – the indicative international price for black tea – climbed by 13 per cent last year, pushing prices to record levels due to droughts n some of the major tea-producing regions of Asia and Africa.

 

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