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Coffee and Tea Reports from the Front Lines

Organic Indian Tea Exports Up

India - Organic tea production in India has almost doubled from 1.68 million kg in 1998 to 3.5 million kg in 2003, with about 75% of it being exported, reports India News.

Organic tea is currently exported to Germany, Britain, France, the US and Japan, N.K. Das, chairman of the Tea Board, told Commerce Minister Kamal Nath during a presentation on the crisis in the tea sector.

With certification having been introduced, organic tea is fetching a better price than normal tea, the minister was told.

This welcome development has come at a time when plantation crops, mainly tea and coffee, have been affected by a fall in prices during the past four years due to oversupply.

"Lower price realization has in turn affected the viability of tea gardens," Das said.

One of the world’s largest producers, India’s tea sector has been going through a crisis with both domestic and export demand dipping.

The increasing switch to organic tea production is helping to revive export demand. As part of the promotion, Darjeeling organic tea is being targeted as a premium niche market specialty export product, Das said.

Expressing concern at the declining share of Indian tea in world markets over the last decade, Kamal Nath said this negative trend must be reversed.

He stressed the need to find a viable solution to revive the tea sector in consultation with industry as it provides direct and indirect employment to more than 10 million people, half of them women.

Last year, India set up a special fund with contributions from plantation owners to help out farmers during times when prices dip sharply in domestic markets.

Farmers Want To End Coffee Auction

Kenya - Small scale coffee farmers from the giant Kenya Planters Cooperative Union (KPCU) wants to get rid of the weekly Nairobi coffee auction, reports The East African Standard. Instead, they want a liberal coffee marketing system that would enable them to sell their beans to roasters directly without going through auction house. The demand came as cooperatives minister Njeru Ndwiga ruled out the possibility of registering additional marketing agents and the elimination of the auction system as had been suggested by the Gatandu North Legislator Patrick Muiruri.

Currently, there are three marketing agents including KPCU, Thika Coffee Mills and Scofinaf. During KPCU’s Annual General meeting held recently, the farmers unanimously supported the elimination of the auction system as suggested by Muiruri. Muiruri, who was invited to address the farmers by Ndwiga, accused the auction dealers of short-changing farmers. He said there was no justification for buying the same grades of coffee from different farmers and paying differently for the same quality as is being done by some of the dealers.

"These people will buy grade AB from me at $100 but during the subsequent auction, they will but the same at $70. Is this not cheating?" he asked. Ndqiga said the government was gathering evident on the behavior of the auctioneers and will act on it promptly. "There is enough evidence that whereas roasters are paying good prices for the auction, the auctioneers are deliberately depressing the prices in order to raise their profit margins," said Ndwiga. The minister disagreed, saying that the auction system was relevant as a "value realization market."

Study Says Coffee Can Make You Forget

Italy - A new study suggests caffeine might hinder short-term recall of certain words, reports BBC News.

Caffeine made it harder for people to find a word that they already knew - the "tip-of-the-tongue" phenomenon.

Valerie Lesk, of the International School for Advanced Studies in Italy, believes caffeine improves alertness by shutting down other brain pathways. This makes it harder to recall words, she says in Behavioral Psychology.

Lesk and her colleague divided 32 college students into two groups. One group was given 200mg of caffeine, which is equivalent to two strong cups of coffee, and the other was given a placebo.

The students were then asked to answer 100 general knowledge questions that had simple, one-word answers. For each question the student was given 10 words to look at before answering. Between two and eight of the words were similar sounding to the answer, and the other words were completely unrelated to the answer.

Caffeine helped word recall when the words the students could choose from were similar to the answer. But when the words were unrelated to the answer, the students who had taken caffeine had more trouble recalling the answer than those who had taken the placebo.

A spokeswoman from the British Coffee Association said the study was too small to be able to generalize. "There are many studies that show the beneficial effects that moderate caffeine consumption can have on alertness, cognitive function and mood. This one study does not rewrite the science," she said.

Tea & Coffee - August/September, 2004

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