TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Iriana Ekasari, Head of the Indonesian Tea Council's Internal and Foreign Affairs Division, said tea production has continued to decline since 2007. One of the reasons is the increasingly reduced plantation areas due to land conversion and gentrification.
According to Iriana, the average rate of reduction in tea plantation land is 3,000 hectares per year.
"In West Java, from 2014 to 2018, there was a decrease of 5,600 hectares," she said on Wednesday, March 13.
According to the Agriculture Ministry's data, the peak of tea production was in 2003 with 170,000 tons. However, in 2012, production dropped to just 140,000 tons.
The decline in production continued and in 2016 and 2017 reaching just 139,000 tons.
Not only production, Iriana said the export demand for tea has become sluggish. Last year, Indonesia's tea exports reached 49,000 tons, down by more than half from 2008's nearly 100,000 tons.
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Although exports fell, Iriana said domestic consumption rose. "This means that the tea industry actually has a domestic market. But the import value of tea also goes up," he said.
Today, Iriana said, imported tea from Thailand and Vietnam dominate the domestic market. Customers in Indonesia mostly consume grade II tea or lower. To meet the demand, Indonesia imports from Vietnam because the price is cheaper.
"We import a lot of cheap tea, namely tea which is widely used by the industry, even though our domestic production is abundant," she said.
Therefore, Iriana hopes the government can intervene so that national industries can survive. One way is by prioritizing the production of grade II tea.
The industry also requested for a revision of the Indonesian national standard (SNI) to the minimum content in ready-to-drink tea, such as what had been applied to bottled juice drinks.
"Tea must also have standards," Iriana said.