Rising costs, muted realisations likely to hit profitability of tea firms; share of exports to stay at 18-20%: Report

Mumbai: Rising costs and muted realisations are expected to dent the profitability of tea companies, says a report.

"We expects profit margins of domestic tea planters to contract by 140-170 basis points (bps) in FY 19 and a further by around 100 bps in FY20. The margins of integrated players are expected to contract 200-240 bps and a further around 90 bps, CRISIL said in a report.

It expects prices at tea auctions across the country to close calendar year 2018 at Rs 145-146 per kg on average, 3-4 percent higher on-year, compared with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 1.4 percent logged over calendar 2012-2017.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

"Despite this, the players' margins are expected to be impacted adversely as the export-driven uptick would not be enough to offset a significant increase in labour cost," it said.

In March 2018, tea estate workers' wages increased significantly by 22-25 percent in north India, which accounts for approximately 80 percent of the country's total tea production, CRISIL noted, adding that labourers in Assam have demanded a further hike of Rs 17 per day (another 10 percent), which is being discussed and, if implemented, would add to the burden of planters.

The rating agency observed that the domestic market is saturated, with penetration as high as 99 percent among the tea-drinking population, which has limited growth potential and increased the players' dependence on exports to maintain the overall demand-supply balance in the domestic market and thereby prices.

The agency expects record tea production of 1,328 million kg in 2018 and 1,339 million kg in 2019, driven by higher yields in Assam and West Bengal.

"However, the share of exports is estimated to continue at 18-20 percent in volume terms. Thus, healthy supplies due to higher production and limited scope for growth in domestic consumption and exports will cap any rise in prices for Indian players," it said.

In 2017, India accounted for 23 percent of the global production. However, its share of exports was only 13 percent due to stiff competition from Kenya and Sri Lanka, and high domestic consumption.

Both Kenya and Sri Lanka accounted for only 13 percent of global tea production, but cornered 39 percent exports share during the year. Those two countries also enjoy much higher realisation compared with India, given better-quality tea.

"Export realisation of Indian tea producer's dropped at around 2 percent CAGR over 2012-2017. In 2018, growth in realisation is expected to have remained muted, though 2019 could see a marginal increase of 1-2 percent," it said.

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Updated Date: Dec 26, 2018 18:22:46 IST

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