CHINA RETURNS TO WORK
During the periods of operational closures in China, some shipments of tea were delayed, but these too are now returning to a regularly scheduled flow of shipments out of China. We communicate with our parent company on a daily basis, and our China team has started to work on our shipments as soon as they returned to work on the week of 24 February.
China Inspection and Quarantine (CIQ) and China’s ports in Zhejiang Province have re-opened for tea exports. Our colleagues who are dealing directly with both CIQ and the ports feel they are fully staffed and will fulfill exports requirements and efficiently get containers onto vessels.
The biggest interruption to the supply and availability of tea will be felt within China. As most tea produced in China is consumed domestically. The first flushes/harvests are reserved for domestic buyers; it is not until further along in the season that tea for the export market is processed. Initial harvest is set to begin in mid-March in some regions, and most provinces will be able to initiate their work. The big exception will be Hubei, the 3rd largest tea producing province in China.
In addition, Mei Yu, Secretary General of the China Tea Association, said in an interview with the Economic Daily:
“149 top-tier processing facilities in 21 counties (cities) in 7 provinces and regions nationwide have begun to collect early spring tea. These facilities are operating in compliance with the health and safety guidelines from local governments and industry organizations”
“While the cost of plucking tea will be higher this year; volumes of mid-grade teas are expected to be higher. As such, the overall price should generally remain on-balance. Volumes of high-end teas should be relatively low, so these prices are likely to increase. Current output and price are not the biggest factors: the wait-and-see attitude of the market is creating instability.”
“The impact of the coronavirus mainly impacted the market for finished tea before and after the Spring Festival. Colder than average spring weather affected some local production areas, but in terms of the overall early spring tea market across China, it had little impact.”
During this difficult time, Firsd Tea also wishes to avoid withdrawing economic support for poverty stricken areas and the tea farmers of those areas. Nearly 30% of all poverty-stricken counties in China rely on tea crops as their main source of income for sustainable, economic development.
- China is the world’s largest tea exporter
- 45% of green tea in US is from China
- 50% of US Fair Trade tea comes from China
- 65% of US Organic tea is from China
REGARDING THE SAFETY OF TEA IMPORTS FROM CHINA
The CDC has stated:
“The virus is not spread through goods but by human to human contact.”
“In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures. Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread most often by respiratory droplets. Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with imported goods and there have not been any cases of COVID-19 in the United States associated with imported goods……”
The Tea Association of the US echoes the CDC position, giving an assessment of infection risk from imported tea products is as follows:
- Tea Leaf: due to generally long transportation times from origin, the risk is very low
- Spray Dried Extracts: due to high temperatures employed in the spray drying process the risk is very low
- Liquid Extracts: Most, if not all, liquid extracts are either pasteurized or UHT treated, reducing the risk to virtually nil
The Tea Association’s position is that there is no need to be concerned about the risk of coronavirus infection from imported tea products.
The Tea and Herbal Association of Canada takes a similar position:
“There is no indication that this strain of the virus can be transmitted through products and packaging.”
ON DISRUPTIONS TO TEA BUSINESS IN THE U.S.
On 25 February, Dr. Nancy Messonnier of the CDC offered this guidance during a briefing with reporters:
“Americans need to start preparing now for the possibility that more aggressive, disruptive measures might be needed to stop the spread of the new coronavirus in the U.S.”
As a result of these market and industry concerns, Firsd Tea has seen a higher than usual number of inquiries coming in. The combination of a lag in supply of all tea leaving China, the larger incidence of purchase inquiries, and potential transport disruptions in the US, Firsd Tea strongly recommends our customer maintain regular contact with your Firsd Tea representative, and inquiring about advance planning and reserving teas to help mitigate against disruptions in tea supply.