“There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in”
This week we travel to Kerala – virtually, of course. We speak with Mr. Anil George at Harrisons Malayalam to understand how the tea sector is faring in God’s own country.
For readers unfamiliar with Kerala – a bit of background – Kerala, a small state in the south west of India, has been lauded by various economists and anthropologists for what is now referred to as the Kerala model. Kerala has, to its credit, created possibly the best social infrastructure in India – high literacy, exemplary healthcare, high life expectancy, low infant mortality and a low birth rate. Hans Rosling equated Kerala’s life expectancy numbers with that of the US despite having a significantly lower per capita GDP (at 9:10 minutes).
The start of 2020 looked promising as early rainfall had improved the water situation. But then Covid struck.
And that was when the Kerala model rose to the occasion. Surprisingly enough, one of the beneficiaries has been the private sector. An excellent example to demonstrate that investing in social infrastructure has payoffs that benefit all members – even industry. There are 15 hill districts in Kerala where tea estates are now allowed to operate – in stark contrast with north east India which is still locked down. Auctions at Kochi center have already commenced and buyers have returned.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that India has been consuming a lot of tea while being quarantined at home. With retail and warehouse stocks running down rapidly, the situation augurs well for a jump in tea sales. The Kochi auctions have also witnessed the entry of new buyers – Germany and Malaysia.
Experts hold out the possibility of rates seeing an uptick – what with new buyers coming up against a reduced supply.
And then there was this report – the theaflavins in black tea could have a protective influence for the tea drinker from Covid.
Could Covid have a silver lining for the tea sector after all?