India’s tea exporters worried about payment issues with Russia

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A tea garden in Upper Assam. Photo by Shampa Bahadur

India’s tea exporters expressed concern over how to solve payment issues for their shipments to Russia since the CIS country’s several banks have been blocked to access to a global financial system SWIFT, in the wake of the Russian-Ukraine crisis. Indian Tea Exporters’ Association (ITEA) chairman Anshuman Kanoria said everything is uncertain and premature in the context of the conflict.

“But the blocking of access to SWIFT for several Russian banks is worrisome. Russia is the largest importer of Indian tea, followed by Iran, with which there is also a payment problem due to sanctions imposed by the US,” he said.

The US along with its key allies, including the European Union and the UK, had decided to disconnect key sanctioned Russian banks from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

During the last calendar year, Russia imported 34.09 million kilograms of Indian tea, followed by Iran at 26.18 million kilograms, according to Tea Board data. Besides the payment issues with Russia, tea cargo movement to the country is also a problem as “no delivery is taking place at a Black Sea port and most of the shipping liners are not taking cargo to Russian destinations,” he said.

The Tea Board has already convened a meeting with the exporters to Russia, Kanoria said, adding that the Centre is monitoring the situation very closely. “We are also in touch with the government”, he said. Russian Ruble has weakened against Indian Rupee and US dollar, adding woes to the problem.

“The tea exporting community is hopeful that some solutions will emerge. It is a worrying time for the tea industry due to both payment issues with Russia and Iran,” he added.

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