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The first step to understanding the state of China’s tea industry is to examine its relationship with other tea producing countries, and the contributions of mainland Chinese tea-producing provinces. Production was reported in a previous article. China is no slouch in terms of exports either, as it is the second largest exporter among tea producing countries.
In terms of global exports, China placed second in 2021 with 369,355 metric tonnes, exceeded only by Kenya’s 557,000 metric tonnes. Taken together, these two nations accounted for nearly half of global tea exports from producing countries. Owing to its strong economic development, and cultural ties to tea, China’s domestic demand means that only 12% of the nation’s tea was exported.
As expected, the vast majority (84.6%) of China’s tea exports was green tea, followed by black (8%) and wulong (5.2%). By China’s recording system, jasmine green tea would be considered a flower/scented tea, and therefore categorized as such instead of being counted as part of green tea exports. Flower/scented teas represented 1.6% of 2021 exports. In dollar terms, green tea only accounted for about 64% of value, as its average dollar per kg rate was $4.76, while black tea and wulong tea rates were $14.02 and $14.76 per kg, respectively.
For the past few years, the top destinations for China’s tea exports have been Morocco, Uzbekistan, and Ghana. Morocco, stands far above the rest, taking over 74,000 metric tonnes, or 20% of China’s total annual exports. Morocco has long been known for its tea drinking culture (think Moroccan mint tea) and its trade in packing and re-export of tea. Moving down the list of export destinations reveals Russia (18,164 metric tonnes) as the fifth largest recipient, and the United States (10,980 metric tonnes) as tenth largest customer of Chinese exports. China will be keeping an eye on both the US and Russia, as factors like trade disputes, sanctions and the war with Ukraine may further impact trade with these markets more so than with some of their other main tea trading partners.
Overall, indications point to China continuing to lead global tea production with the central and western portions of the country as driving forces. Exports, especially of green and black teas, are expected to remain steady in relation to production. This stability helps contribute to fairly moderate increases in average export prices as well, with the most recent 9 years showing a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.6% in USD per kilogram.