Tea Coverage

With 3 billion cups consumed globally each day, tea is the world’s second most popular beverage after water.

Tea production employs 13 million people, 9 million of whom are smallholder farmers, primarily from Asia and Africa. A significant amount of tea is consumed domestically in producing countrieswith several factors influencing the demand for this popular beverage, such as price, age, education, occupation and the cultural background of the consumer. Increased interest in natural and health products also influence the consumption of tea, specially, flavoured tea, ready to drink tea and premium tea that has continued to rise.

While tea production and consumption are both projected to rise, the industry is facing critical sustainability challenges. The tea plant is highly sensitive to changes in the environment, and floods and droughts are affecting yields, quality and prices. Other issues like forced and child labour, poor tea plantation working conditions, pesticide use and residues are threatening the tea sector and the rural livelihoods that depend on it.

Voluntary sustainability standards (VSSs) in the tea sector are working to address these issues, while also fostering climate resilience, preventing soil erosion and increasing profitability for smallholders. Today, VSS-compliant tea is growing at a higher pace than conventional tea. The majority of VSS-compliant tea comes from Africa (Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda) and Asia (India, Turkey, Indonesia). Despite this growth, growing demand for VSS-compliant tea remains a challenge as the largest tea-producing countries are also the largest consumers, and they tend toward consuming conventionally grown options over more costly sustainable versions. This trend might be shifting with the growing middle classes developing a taste for specialty and more sustainable tea.

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Key Takeaways

13 million jobs

Tea production employs 13 million people, nine million of whom are smallholder farmers while the remainder work in tea estates. In China, Sri Lanka and Kenya, which account for half the world’s tea production, most of the tea is produced by smallholder farmers.

VSS production up by 35%

From 2008 to 2016, VSS-compliant tea experienced a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of about 35 per cent, accounting for at least 19 per cent of tea production overall.

1.15 million tonnes

In 2016, at least 1.15 million tonnes of VSS-compliant tea was produced, valued at USD 2 billion.

USD 8 billion

In 2017, total tea production accounted for 5.98 million tonnes, of which approximately 35 per cent was exported, worth USD 8 billion.