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Friday, September 09, 2011

Assam Tea should be state drink and national drink

Darjeeling may have something to say about the latter. Reported in Business Standard, by Supratim Dey The tea industry of Assam, a state which is synonymous in the outside world with its tea, has asked the government to declare the beverage as the ‘National Drink’ of India. It also wants tea to be declared as the ‘State Drink’ of Assam. “In view of its glorious past and in anticipation of its bright future, we sincerely feel that there is a genuine case for tea to be declared as the ‘State Drink’ of Assam. The logical step forward would then be to persuade the government of India to declare tea as the ‘National Drink’ of India,” said Bidyananda Barkakoty, Chairman of North Eastern Tea Association (NETA). For India, which is the largest consumer of tea and the second largest producer of tea (till 2005 India was the largest producer), declaring tea will have an “integrating effect”, feels Barkakoty. India consumes more than 80 per cent of its domestic production and 20 per cent of the world’s production. NETA had yesterday submitted a memorandum to Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi in support of its demand. In the memorandum, Barkakoty has put forth at least 33 reasons why tea should be declared as the ‘State Drink’ of Assam and the ‘National Drink’ of India. “If whiskey can be the national drink of Scotland, sugarcane juice the national drink of Pakistan, vodka the national drink of Russia, tequila the national drink of Mexico, why can’t tea be the national drink of India,” asked Barkakoty. Barkakoty feels that the tea industry in Assam, with its 180 years of glorious history, has already passed through many turbulent periods and is quite vulnerable to recession. Since the livelihood of millions of people is associated with the industry, it needs adequate support to protect it from being threatened. He feels that the proposed new status of this beverage would provide a major impetus to the brand building exercise of Indian tea. “Symbolism apart, the declaration will be a good idea for bolstering the marketing of Indian tea. Tea is now accepted as a health drink world over. This fact coupled with the ‘State Drink’ and ‘National Drink’ tag would also attract the large youth population of the country towards this health beverage,” said Barkakoty. Historically, Assam is the second commercial tea producing region after southern China. Southern China and Assam are the only two regions in the world with native tea plants. Assam produces more than 55 per cent of India’s total tea production and contributes 13 per cent of global tea production.

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