- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Move over OPEC. There’s a new cartel in town — this one aimed at driving up the price of tea.

After 80 years of trying, the world’s biggest tea producers have agreed to unite, and most industry watchers see rising prices in the future. The formation of the International Tea Producer’s Forum comes on the heels of talks among producers from Sri Lanka, India, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda and Indonesia, the BBC reports.

These countries produce more than 50 percent of the world’s tea. China, the largest single producer of tea in the world, was not invited to join the forum, but rather, to act as an observer.

Sri Lanka’s plantations minister, Mahinda Samarasinghe, said in a Telegraph report that tea exporters have been trying to form a union for decades.

“In that context,” he reportedly said, what we have just achieved is a historic landmark in the tea industry.”

Sri Lanka in 1994 recommended the establishment of a tea cartel that gave major producers the right to set prices — similar to the authority of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to control oil prices. Nations couldn’t reach consensus then, however.

• Cheryl K. Chumley can be reached at cchumley@washingtontimes.com.

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