Consumption Of Tea In Pakistan
Tea has literally become the national drink of Pakistan because of its importance in our routine life and culture. Generally, it is consumed for refreshment particularly during breakfast, during lunch breaks at the workplace or in the evening at home. All events whether it is the wedding or a protest; are incomplete without tea. It flavors good and is the cheapest beverage consumed globally. It is considered the 2nd most consumed drink after water in the world. For thousands of years, green tea has been an ancient tradition in Pakistan while black tea was first presented and spread in South Asia during the colonial British era. In the different Pakistani regions it has its own different varieties and tastes giving country tea culture a varied blend.
Spiced Tea (Masala chai) and the Black tea are popular in Karachi while the milky and thick Doodh Pati Chai is preferred in Punjab. Biscuits, cake and spicy snacks like samosas and sandwiches are common staples enjoyed with tea depending on serving time. Guests are usually offered a choice between tea and soft drinks. In the northern and western areas of Pakistan, involving KPK Province, Balochistan Province and Kashmir, the green tea called “kahwah” is popular. In Kashmir, milky pink colored tea with cardamom and pistachios known as Noon Chai or Kashmiri chai is consumed during the winter months and at special occasions. In Gilgit-Baltistan and north Chitral areas salty buttered Tibetan style tea is preferred.
Tea is cultivated product of leaves, internodes, and the leaf buds, of the aromatic plant Camellia sinensis. This plant originated in South East China and gradually spread to Pakistan, India, and other countries. It comprises fluoride which is helpful in our pathological and some physiological conditions. Fluoride also inhibits tooth decay. It also averts the cholesterol deposition on the artery wall, preventing heart disease. Tea is also beneficial in combating intestinal bacterial diseases because of comprising compounds which inhibit proliferation of bacteria. It is also helpful in controlling the diseases initiated by radiation.
Tea contains caffeine, which is a central nervous system stimulant and causes addiction to it. Due to caffeine, tea users get addicted to tea. Because of addictive caffeine, overuse of tea can result in adverse detrimental effects, like increased sleep disorders. Globally, the annual per capita consumption of tea is 0.75 kg. The average consumption in Turkey is 2.15 kg, China 0.3 kg, Iran 2.4 kg, in the United States 0.35 kg, Japan 0.94 kg, Sri Lanka 1.45, Australia 2.7 kg, and in India, it is 0.52 kg. Most of these countries are not only self-sufficient in production but are also net exporters. Pakistan is a small producer but high per capita consumer.
At present, consumption of black tea in Pakistan has been assessed at 1,72,911 tonnes which are estimated to increase to 2,50,755 tonnes in the year 2027. Tea consumption in Pakistan is increasing gradually with the rise in population. Every Pakistani, on an average, take 1 kilo of tea per annum. Pakistan is the 7th largest consumer of tea across the globe.
The import of 150,000 tonnes of tea reached 170,000 tonnes in 2010. Annual tea imports come to Rs17.4 billion in 2008-09 placing an immense burden on the state exchequer. Pakistan imports tea from twenty-one different countries comprising Kenya, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and India etc. Kenya is the largest black tea exporter to Pakistan having 55% shares in the market. Pakistan is the 3rd largest importer of tea after England and Russia.
In May 2018, Pakistan imported 11,370 tonnes of tea at a cost of Rs3.583 billion, while in April, imported 14,594 tonnes of tea valued at Rs4.855 billion. While in May 2017, 12,804 tonnes of tea at the cost of Rs4.057 billion was imported.
Higher tea consumption not only augmented the burden of foreign exchange but also stimulated the tea smuggling. About more than 20% of annual consumption is being received by smuggling, considered the main reason for losses in government revenue. The complacency of tax experts has caused in a revenue loss of 13 billion to the government, as during the last fiscal year, only 87,000 tonnes of tea was imported legally out of the total domestic demand of 200,000 tonnes.
Several policy actions have been introduced to encourage tea cultivation for reducing the burden of foreign exchange and to control smuggling by the further reduction in import duties and taxes. Unluckily all these processes always seemed unsuccessful due to lack of will by the political leadership and bureaucratic lethargy. To get rid of these financial cataclysms, there is a dire need to take severe and rigorous actions.