1131 GMT January 18, 2019
After the US announced in July its plans of putting an embargo on Iran, Indian tea firms and exporters, wary of the situation, had halted some of the shipments and some tea producers switched to CTC from orthodox tea, business-standard.com reported.
Although orthodox tea production dipped by an estimated 10 percent, prices didn't firm up.
Exporters who had stocked tea or had entered into contracts with Iranian importers tried to clear the stocks at lower prices. Average price realization from exports to Iran dipped by over seven percent at $3.61 per kilogram.
"During the peak season of orthodox tea cultivation (March-June), sanctions were announced, which caught tea companies off guard and some of them shifted to CTC production," said Vivek Goenka, the chairman of the Indian Tea Association.
Tea companies had also halted contracted shipments since Iranian importers had been insisting on payments in dollars or euros rather than the rupee.
In 2011-12, after the Obama administration imposed trade sanctions on Iran, the Indian and Iranian governments put in place the rupee-rial payment mechanism, where up to 45 percent of India's purchases of Iranian oil could be paid in rupees, covering tea, rice, medicines and commodities not sanctioned by the UN.
However, lately, Iran, in the wake of US sanctions, has been insisting on payments in dollars and euros, which are convertible. On the other hand, it has been insisting on paying in rial.
"There was huge uncertainty on how payments would be made to India and thus many shipments got stuck at the Kolkata warehouse. However, for two weeks, payments from Iran have started coming, which is restoring confidence," said Azam Monem, director at McLeod Russel, the world's largest tea-producing company.
At the Kolkata and Guwahati tea auctions recently, large quantities of Assam orthodox tea, mostly exported to Iran, had remained unsold.
Goenka, however, said that since mid-October, around 90 percent of orthodox tea, put up for sale in the auctions, had been sold.
"Exports to Iran are poised to increase in the coming days. Prices will also increase," Atul Asthana, chief executive officer and managing director at Camellia Plc-owned Goodricke Group said.
Although trade between India and Iran, of $10.6 billion, mostly comprises oil imports, accounting from $8 billion, Indian exports — primarily tea and basmati rice — account for $2.6 billion.