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Coffee and Tea Reports from the Front Lines

Vietnam Seeks Tea Customers Due to Iraq War

Vietnam - Vietnam tea exporters are eagerly seeking new foreign markets to boost export this year and reduce their reliance on Iraq, their leading customer, as shipments to the Middle East country have been stagnant since the Iraqi war began, said Nguyen Kim Phong, chairman of Vietnam Tea Association (VINATAS).

“We have been preparing a market expansion strategy for a long time before the Iraqi ware and are now pushing up the plan’s implementation,” Phong said.

“Vietnamese tea products were shipped to 59 countries in 2002, up from 48 previously,” he said. The exporters have been successful in building a reputation in new market such as Taiwan, Russia, the EU and the U.S.

Vietnam is the eighth largest tea producer in the world. As at the end of 2002, it had planted more than 100,000 hectares of tea, turning out 93,000 tons. The country exported 75,000 tons of tea last year, representing 81% of total output.

Tea shipments in the first two months of this year also saw growth of 24.5% in volume and 45.2% in value to 8,000 tons and $8.4 million. February’s shipments doubled from a year ago to around 4,000 tons worth $4.2 million, up from $2.6 million last February.

Hundreds of Slaves Freed in Brazil

Brazil - Government inspectors from the Ministry of Labor have freed 849 workers being held in conditions of slavery on a coffee farm near Barreiras in the state of Bahia, according to BBC News.

Government inspectors who had been tipped off by a local politician raided a coffee farm in Bahia. The workers were forced to live in makeshift shelters which provided little protection from the heat and the rain, and more than 70 of them were ill.

The inspectors ordered the farmer to pay the workers everything he owed them and then arrange transport for them back to their home region.

The government has been trying to find a way to eradicate slave labor, however, many of those who recruit the forced labor are influential ranchers - and some have even been elected to public office. And in the poor regions of northeast Brazil, where most of the workers are from, there are always desperate unemployed people who are easily persuaded to move hundreds of miles away when offered a new “job”.

Tchibo Deals With Loss

Germany - With their 4.4 billion Euro (US$5.2 billion) investment in Beiersdorf now worth one billion less than they paid 24 hours ago, the Nivea maker’s new owners must set about recouping their loss, analysts said, according to Reuters. Sources close to the deal say the Herz family, whose coffee firm Tchibo now effectively controls Beiersdorf, will set about restoring the rapid growth rates that characterized much of the last decade in order to justify the cost. Analysts said Beiersdorf’s core Nivea brand would have to fight just to keep ahead of growing competition from Unilever’s Dove range and Procter & Gamble’s Olay moisturizers. Beiersdorf agreed to buy back up to 10 percent of its own shares as part of a deal in which Tchibo and fellow Hamburg investors bought 40% of the firm from insurer Allianz for 4.4 billion Euros. Beiersdorf still has strong organic growth potential analysts said, but without strategic guidance from Tchibo, it was difficult to know how that would be exploited.
Tea May Lower Bad Cholesterol

United States - Black tea consumption may lower bad cholesterol levels and could one day be used to help reduce the chances of getting heart disease, U.S. researchers say, according to the Toronto Star.

Scientists with the U.S. Department of Agriculture said they found that test subjects who drank black tea for three weeks experienced a decrease of between 7-11% in their low density lipoprotein (LDL) or so-called bad cholesterol. The scientists don’t know exactly what caused the levels to drop, but tests are being conducted to determine if the beverage slows the body’s ability to absorb LDL cholesterol.

In a six-week, double-blind study, about half the participants received five cups of black tea per day for three weeks, while the rest were given colored water that tasted like tea. The two groups then switched what they were given to drink after three weeks. LDL levels dropped by an average of 7.5% during the three weeks when the individuals consumed tea rather than the placebo blend. The study controlled the diets of the participants by supplying them with their daily meals

There was no effect on the level of high-density lipoprotein, or the good type of cholesterol, according to the study of a small group of individuals.

Studies suggest that high levels of HDL cholesterol reduce the risk of heart attack, while high levels of LDL cholesterol increase the risk.

Relief for Indian Coffee Growers

India - In order to provide continued relief to coffee growers, the Indian government has extended the last date of the Special Coffee Term Loan (SCTL) scheme to March 2004 and also brought under the ambit of the scheme loans which were granted in 2001, according to The Hindu.

According to revised guidelines issued by the Reserve Bank of India, the cutoff date for implementation of SCTL relief package has been extended from March 2003 to the end of March 2004.

Similarly, coffee loans, which became problematic for the first time, will now be brought under the SCTL relief package. Both these steps would ensure that all eligible cases that had not been covered so far under SCTL package would now be brought under its ambit, according to an official release from the Union Finance Ministry.

The Finance Ministry has, however, not accepted the recommendation for relief in interest rates.

Starbucks Sued Over Nose Ring

Canada - Two South Asian women fired by Starbucks in British Columbia for refusing to remove their nose rings have filed a case against the coffee chain.

In June, Benita Singh, 26, refused to remove her nose ring as asked by her manager at Starbucks. Singh and Aisha Syed, 25, have both filed cases against Starbucks. Their complaints state that the nose ring “is an expression of her identity as an Indian woman. The nose ring is a significant aspect of her identity.”

According to the complainants’ attorney, Starbucks has filed its response in which it said the nose ring is a “mere piece of jewelry.”

Starbucks had a dress code that expects employees to “present a clean, neat and professional appearance” and tattoos must not be visible and earrings “may be of moderate size, and no other ornaments are allowed including nose rings, eyebrow rings, tongue studs or any other facial jewelry."



Tea & Coffee - December/January, 2004
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