International Tea Day: Pakistan is the World's Largest Tea Importer

Pakistan does not produce tea but it is the most popular beverage among Pakistanis.  The country is ranked as its largest importer in the world.  In 2020, Pakistan imported $646 million (9% of global tea imports) worth of tea and exported $15.2 million in branded blends of tea such as Tapal Tea. Pakistan tea imports grew 19.8% from 2019 to 2020. 

Pakistan Tea Trade. Source: The Observatory of Economic Complexity

Other major tea importers in 2020 were as follows: United States: $473.8 million (7.1%) Russia: $412.2 million (6.2%) United Kingdom: $348.7 million (5.2%) Saudi Arabia: $243.6 million (3.7%) Iran: $236.3 million (3.5%) Hong Kong: $221.8 million (3.3%) Morocco: $202.3 million (3%) Egypt: $197.2 million (3%) Germany: $195 million (2.9%) China: $180 million (2.7%) France: $168.1 million (2.5%) United Arab Emirates: $164.9 million (2.5%) Japan: $156.6 million (2.4%) Iraq: $134.7 million (2%).  Global purchases of imported tea totaled US$6.7 billion in 2020. Of these countries, 4 markets for tea imports grew since 2019 namely: Hong Kong (up 19%), Pakistan (up 18.7%), Saudi Arabia (up 2.9%)  and France (up 0.7%).

Tea is popular in Pakistan and many other parts of the world for many reasons. A British study found that tea provides as much day-time stimulation as coffee, despite having half the caffeine. But tea was less likely to disrupt sleep. A Japanese study reported that plant compounds found in regular black tea – called theaflavins – were found to kill off oral bacteria linked with tooth and gum disease in a clinical trial with adults. A team of American scientists in Baltimore reviewed the evidence on tea and heart health, reporting that tea polyphenols have a direct impact on heart muscle contractions by controlling the flow of calcium ions into the muscle cells. The TAP (Tea Advisory Panel) data review reveals that more than half of Brits agree that tea is good for the heart.

World's Top Tea Importing Countries. Source: Statista

Last year, the PTI government headed by former Prime Minister Imran Khan decided to push domestic cultivation of tea in Pakistan with the help of Chinese experts. Already, trials have been conducted for growing tea in Mansehra, Battagram, Swat and Azad Kashmir regions which are considered to have the right climate for it. About 25,000 acres of government land has been allocated for tea cultivation along the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). 

“This year we are going to approve a project where we are growing tea on an area of 25,000 acres; we are creating history; we plan to complete the proposed tea plantations over the next five years,” said Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Food Security Jamshed Iqbal Cheema during his 2021 visit to the National Tea and High-Value Crops Research Institute (NTHRI) at Shinkiari, Mansehra in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. Cheema said Pakistan has great potential for growing tea.  The country has 178,000 acres of tea cultivable land. “Pakistan can grow its own tea,” he said, adding that the country imported 30 million tonnes of tea each year from 15 different tea-producing countries.

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Comment by Riaz Haq on May 21, 2022 at 5:52pm

Islamabad [Pakistan], May 15 (ANI): Pakistan’s oil and eatable import bill surged by 58.98 per cent to USD 24.77 billion in the months of July and April even the country battles a fast declining economy, owing to an increase in international prices and a massive depreciation of the rupee.

https://theprint.in/world/pakistan-oil-eatable-import-bill-spiked-t...

When compared to last year’s import bill of USD 44.73 billion, the country’s overall import bill spiked by 46.51 per cent to USD 65.53 in ten months ending October 2022, reported the Dawn newspaper. The share of these products also faced an increase of 37.79 per cent. The sharp ascent in these two sectors has resulted in trade deficits in Pakistan, adding pressure on the government’s external side.

Further, data released by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics revealed that the import bill on oil has increased by over 95.84 per cent to USD 17.03 billion in 10MFY22. Further, the import of petroleum products increased by 121.15 per cent in value and 24.17 per cent in quantity, crude oil imports witnessed a hike of 75.34pc in value and 1.36pc in quantity while there was a sharp rise of 39.86 per cent in the value of liquefied petroleum gas imports.

Reportedly, in order to close the gap in food production, the food import bill had a surge of over 12.30 per cent to USD 7.74 billion in 10MFY22, reported the Dawn newspaper. The import bill in Pakistan is likely to spike further in the following months as the Pakistan government has decided to import about 4 million tonnes of wheat and 0.6 million tonnes of sugar to build strategic reserves, reported the Dawn newspaper.

Meanwhile, there was also a steady increase in edible oil imports in terms of both value and quantity. The value of the palm oil import bill was also hiked by 44.64 per cent to USD 3.09 billion in ten months ending October 2022, up from USD 2.14 billion in 10MFY21. This in turn resulted in a domestic price surge in vegetable ghee and cooking oil.

Notably, the import of soybean oil ascended by 101.96 per cent in value and 9.30 per cent in quantity this year while wheat imports had a decline of 19.12 per cent to 2.206 million tonnes from 3.61 million tonnes in the previous year, reported the Dawn newspaper. Pakistan witnessed a zero wheat import in the month of April.

Also, in comparison to 280,377 tonnes of sugar imports in Pakistan last year, this year there was a hike of about 49.52 per cent to 311,851 tonnes of sugar import. There was also a rapid surge in the import bill of tea, spices, and pulses as well.

Meanwhile, according to a report released by the Global Report on Food Crises, Pakistan’s Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh provinces are suffering from acute food shortages. A hike in food and fuel prices, drought conditions, livestock diseases, and unemployment issues have contributed to the rise in national food rates.

Further, ahead of the delay in the revival of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme and falling foreign currency reserves, the Pakistani rupee hit an all-time low against the US Dollar, crippling the country’s economy further. (ANI)

Comment by Riaz Haq on June 21, 2022 at 11:19am

Why is Pakistan’s government asking people to drink less tea?
The country is grappling with a debt crisis

https://www.economist.com/the-economist-explains/2022/06/21/why-is-...


On june 14th Ahsan Iqbal, Pakistan’s minister for planning and development, appealed to people “to cut down the consumption of tea by one to two cups” a day to help preserve the country’s dwindling foreign exchange reserves. Cries of “austeri-tea” soon made their way across social media. The average Pakistani sips at least three cups a day. So why is the Pakistan’s government asking them to drink less tea?

Pakistan imports some $600m of tea each year. But the government coffers hold less than $9bn in foreign reserves. That is a drop of more than 50% since August and barely enough to cover 45 days of imports of all goods. It owes some $129bn to foreign lenders. On June 21st representatives from the United Nations Development Programme met officials in Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital, to discuss the country’s economic crisis.

Food and fuel prices are rising across the world. In Pakistan annual inflation hit 13.8% in May, the highest in two-and-a-half years. But decades of economic mismanagement have triggered a string of balance-of-payment crises. The country has spent 22 of the past 30 years in some kind of International Monetary Fund (imf) programme. The pandemic and war in Ukraine have further battered the ailing economy. On June 21st the rupee hit a record low against the dollar. And the budget deficit is 8.6% of gdp, well above the government’s previous target of 7.1%. Recent political instability has not helped matters. Imran Khan, the former prime minister, was ousted in April and replaced by Shehbaz Sharif. Mr Khan has sought to destabilise the new government ever since.

Still, there are signs that Mr Sharif’s new government is restoring some order to the economy. On June 10th Miftah Ismail, the finance minister, presented a budget full of cost-saving measures. He increased the taxes on the banking sector by three percentage points and reduced the target for the budget deficit to 4.9% of gdp. He also promised to revoke fuel subsidies that cost the government $600m each month. On June 17th, the government increased fuel prices by 29%—the third increase in a month. Such moves will be painful but are aimed at coaxing the imf into disbursing the remaining half of a $6bn rescue package, without which Pakistan may default on its debt obligations.

But the imf is fed up with Pakistan’s long history of empty promises. Between 1996 and 1997 the government fiddled with the budget-deficit figures to reduce it by $2bn in order to secure a bailout from the fund. Citigroup, an American bank, predicts that the new budget announcements will not be enough to sway the fund.

The tea-based austerity is not the first time that the government has used a spoon to dig itself out of a hole. In 2018 officials were asked to replace meals with biscuits during meetings to cut costs. But difficult structural reforms, rather than cutting down on tea, will be necessary to save Pakistan’s economy from plunging deeper into crisis.

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