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Argentina's tea production up.

Argentina's tea production up

Argentina is expected to produce around 38,000 metric tons of tea this year although some observers feel this could reach 40,000 tons if present conditions prevail. This is an increase from 33,000 tons estimated for 1988/89 and 28,000 to 30,000 tons for 1987/88. Production figures reached record levels in 1984 with 42,000 tons but dropped back dramatically the following year to 33,000 tons because of drought.

Tea production in Argentina is affected more by weather and the economy than by an increase in production. The 1989/90 season got off to a very slow start because of dry periods in October and November but by January deliveries began to pick up. In February, flushing increased as a result of improved weather and better fertilization.

Harvesting of tea in Argentina begins in September or October and ends in April or May. All tea is mechanically harvested because of scarcity and high costs of labor.

The actual area under cultivation to tea in Argentina averages 40,000 hectares for the decade of the 80's of which about 35,000 hectares are actually worked. Most of the plantations are in the hands of small-growers producing from 500 to 1,000 tons, 10 produce over 1,000 tons and five, 3,000 tons. Small-growers sell to any of the hundred or so private or cooperative processing plants. Of these, 10 are large with one moving 8-9,000 tons.

Several plants which closed temporarily in the mid-80's as a result of bad drought conditions and falling international prices re-opened this year in anticipation of good demand after Argentina sold all its 1988/89 stocks and 50 percent of the previous year's. Contrary to expectations several have closed early because of falling prices worldwide exacerbated in Argentina by its own chronic economic problems.

Prices of average main grades of tea began at 95[cents]/kilo (U.S.) in September reaching a peak of 130 to 150 cents in mid-October and gradually coming down to a level of around 90[cents] (U.S.) in February.

Internationally Argentine tea is used as a cheap tea and to reduce costs. The U.S. is the largest importer of Argentine black tea importing 17,000 tons in 1989. Chile imported 7,825 tons in the same period. The U.K. has been regaining its position lost after the 1982 South Atlantic war and imported 2,500 tons of Argentine tea in 1987.

Total exports for 1989 are expected to be around 30,000 tons, 1988 exports are estimated at 32,000 tons, 1987 at 33,000 tons and 1986 at 36,000 tons. Internal consumption is estimated at 6,000 tons annually. Internal consumption is estimated at 6,000 tons annually. It is interesting to note that although there is an eight tics for tea have not been published since mid 1988 although the tax has been collected!

Tea consumption takes third place to yerba mate at 140 to 160,000 tons annually and coffee at 40,000 tons. According to official estimates Argentina imports approximately 30,000 tons of coffee annually down from the 33,000 tons in the mid-80's. About a third again enters the country illegally through smuggling. Coffee is the cheapest beverage on the Argentine market at present. Most of the coffee comes from Brazil followed by Paraguay and Colombia.

For some time now Argentines have been able to enjoy their own truly national coffee produced from seed to bean in the northwestern Province of Salta by Ambar S.A. The coffee is grown on Ambar's plantations and processed in its plant in the town of Salta. Ambar has just finished the civil works on a new processing plant in the town of Oran near its plantations; delivery of machinery from Brazil is now awaited. An area of 35,000 hectares has been found to be ideally suited to coffee production in Salta although only 600 hectares is at present under cultivation.
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Author:Misdorp, Sheila
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Jun 1, 1990
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