Guwahati, May 19 (IANS): Although the Union Government has voiced reservations, Assam's tea bodies are insisting that tea be declared the country's national drink.
Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Jyotiraditya Scindia told Parliament this week that there were objections to tea getting the status of national drink. According to the minister, some States felt that coffee was a competing beverage and promoting tea will be at the cost of coffee.
The North East Tea Association (NETA) feels this is a highly flawed argument. "Did the declaration of tiger as the national animal come at the cost of other animals? Did making hockey the national game affect cricket, football or other sports?" NETA chairperson Bidyananda Barkakoty asked while speaking to IANS.
If tea is recognised as India's national drink, it will in no way affect the growth and consumption of coffee or other beverages.
"And if there are no fixed criteria for giving a national status, as the minister has said, we want to know what criteria were employed to make the tiger or mango the national animal and national fruit?" asked Barkakoty.
He said 83 percent of households in India consume tea, according to an ORG India study in 2008.
The penetration of tea in an Indian household was in the range of 96-99 percent in both urban and rural areas.
Probably no other beverage in the world had such high penetration, he pointed out. The NETA chairman said India annually produced 302 million kg of coffee and 988 million kg of tea.
"The annual coffee consumption in India is 108 million kg whereas tea consumption is 815 million kg. The per capita consumption of coffee is 75 gm whereas for tea it is 730 gm," he said.
"Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu are the main coffee-growing areas in India. Tea is grown in different regions, from the north to the south.
"Even the tea industry of Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu are in no way smaller in size than the coffee industry. About 60 percent of Indian tea export is from these three states," he said.
NETA in association with the Assam Tea Planters Association (ATPA) and Bharatiya Cha Parishad (BCP) will meet Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi to demand that India embrace tea as the national drink.