Tea Exports and Imports to China from 2010 – 2014

In the year 2011, China exported 322,600 tons of tea, a 6.66 percent increase from the year before, totaling a profit of 0.965 billion U.S dollars, a roughly 23 percent increase from the year before, creating a new historical record for both export volume and sales profits. The Chinese tea industry continues to grow, but the bottlenecks to sustainable growth of the Chinese tea industry are already starting to show, and scientific innovation, increased collaboration, as well as the push for comprehensive business transition and upgrade is a challenge that must be met by the tea industry as a whole.

Both the sales price and export volume of green tea have gone up in the year 2011, while other teas show reduced export volume and increased price. The amount of green tea exported in the year 2011 went up by a large amount, totaling 257,400 tons, for a price of 0.706 billion U.S dollars total, an increase of 9.93 percent and 24.62 percent respectively, when compared with the previous year. In the international markets, China’s green tea maintains its customary lead, with a total production value of 81.46 percent of the global gross product, and an export volume of 79.12 percent of the global total trade volume for green tea. Green tea is the main kind of tea being exported by China, taking up nearly 80 percent of its total tea import volume, and therefore, maintaining the stable growth of green tea is an important impetus to the healthy growth of the livelihood economy in China.

Compared with 2010, the export volume of other tea types either remained the same or went down, and as for the sales revenue, there was an increase due to the single unit price going up. Of the other types of tea, red tea garnered an export volume of 35,600 tons, a 2.76 percent decrease in comparison to the previous year, and sales revenue totaled 0.108 billion U.S. dollars, a 36.22 percent increase from 2010. Oolong tea exports totaled 17,900 tons, a 9.04 percent decrease from the past year, and revenue was 74.12 million U.S. dollars, a 3.81 percent increase. 7,341 tons of scented tea was exported, a 0.20 percent decrease, and revenue was 46.32 million, a 16.07 percent increase from the previous year. Puer tea had an export volume of 4,274 tons. a 6.66 percent decrease, revenue totaled at 29.55 million U.S. dollars, a 12.70 percent increase from the previous year.

China is the only large tea producing country capable of mass producing all kinds of tea. However, the international markets mainly demand red tea, and China’s red tea exports are faced with strong competition from Kenya, India, Sri Lanka and other major producers of red tea, causing long term export volume stagnation, resource advantages for oolong tea and other kinds of tea are hard to turn into market advantages, and specialty type tea have yet to enter into the mainstream. The phenomenon of the “one man army” of Chinese green tea will likely persist. China must exploit its advantage of having many types of tea resources, actively expand the market for special variety tea, and build into the pack leader brand of fashionable tea beverages. These are the future directions for the Chinese tea export industry.

The export markets for Chinese tea remained relatively stable, regions in Africa underwent significant growth, whereas major markets such as the United States underwent some decline. In the year 2011, China’s tea exports reached 120 countries and regions, but the market distribution is relatively concentrated. Morocco is the biggest export market of Chinese tea, followed by the United States, Uzbekistan, Japan, Russia, Algeria, Mauritania, Hong Kong, Iran and Togo. The above countries and regions take up 62.85 percent of the total tea export volume by China.

Overall, the Chinese tea industry still faces a series of challenges. Surveys reveal that within generations born in the 80’s nearly 70 percent do not like to drink tea, and generations born in the 90’s is around 95 percent. This is a result of faulty advertising and poorly managed public relations. Tea is not merely a cultural phenomenon, it must also meet consumer demands, if all the tea stores look like archaeology dig sites and antique stores, then it won’t attract a lot of customers. Of the export business, scientific innovation is very much needed, China is still focused on using basic tea products to win over market shares, if this continues, it is inevitable that tea exports will go on the decline and shrink. It is necessary to develop new type tea beverages that are well received by the international markets in order to break out of this rut. Evolve or die, as they say.