The impact Covid-19 and tariffs have on tea imported from China

To say China cannot “catch a break” these days is an understatement. First the tariff battle and now the coronavirus. The coronavirus, first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China, which has proven deadly, and which continues to expand, is having devastating effects on everything relating to China — travel (flights to and from China being cancelled), food (Chinese restaurants in various countries reporting drastically declining sales as consumers are afraid to patronize them), and of course, exported products such as tea.

According to the US-based Mayo Clinic, coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases, such as MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) and SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome). Coronaviruses are transmitted between animals and people.

On 11 February, the World Health Organization announced an official name for the disease that is causing the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak, Covid-19 (or 2019-nCoV).

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the United States reported the first confirmed instance of person-to-person spread with this virus on 30 January. The same day, the CDC further announced that the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee of the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern” (PHEIC).

Peter F Goggi, president of the Tea Association of the USA, has been closely monitoring the situations involving China, from the newly imposed tea tariffs to the risk of coronavirus infection from tea imported from China. In a letter to US Tea Association members, Goggi stated the risk of 2019-nCoV infection per the CDC:

“The virus is not spread through goods but by human to human contact … In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures. Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread most often by respiratory droplets.”

Goggi further stated that the Tea Association’s assessment of 2019-nCoV infection risk from imported tea products is as follows:

  • Tea Leaf — due to generally long transportation times from origin, the risk is very low.
  • Spray Dried Extracts — due to high temperatures employed in the spray drying process the risk is very low.
  • Liquid Extracts — most, if not all, liquid extracts are either pasteurized or UHT treated, reducing the risk to virtually nil (zero).

“The Tea Association’s position is that there is no need to be concerned about the risk of coronavirus (2019-nCoV) infection from imported tea products,” said Goggi.

Additionally, pursuant to the December announcement from President Trump that the US agreed to reduce the tariff on List 4A goods from China to 7.5% from the original 15%, Goggi informed the association’s members that the date for this reduction as published in the Federal Register is confirmed 14 February 2020.

According to Goggi, tea products listed on Annex A that will be reduced to 7.5% tariff are as follows:
















T&CTJ is monitoring both the 2019-nCoV and tariffs situations and will inform our subscribers and readers of any further developments as they become available.

  • Vanessa L. Facenda, editor Tea & Coffee Trade Journal. She may be contacted via [email protected]

Image courtesy of Barbara Dufrêne

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