Herbal tea is well known in Armenia. For centuries Armenians fostered the tradition of gathering and blending herbs that bring pleasure and merriment. Syunik region, which is exclusively higher than 1700 meters from sea level, is a region with green hills and high mountains, therefore is rich with different kinds of herbs. Also the climate of green mountains and high rocks gives an exceptional quality to tea herbs gathered here. Meghri, as a part of Syunik region, also has a potential for producing herbal teas. But it is also unique for the production of high valued pomegranates which can boost the start of pomegranate tea production in the region. This popular “super-fruit” can be used in its natural form, as a juice, tea or even as a supplement. Pomegranates in all its forms, deliver numerous health benefits if consumed regularly. They are rich in antioxidants, good for the heart and also are known to have anti-inflammatory properties.
Taking into account the aforementioned Markets for Meghri (M4M) staff has initiated a visit of tea expert from the United States of America to Meghri Mr. Manickarajah Jayakumar. He has 38 years of experience in growing, manufacturing, consulting and marketing of different types of tea. He is also the CEO of “Qtrade International Corporation”, which is an importer of tea varieties from around the world and the largest importer of organic tea in North America. Thus his visit had twofold results: from the one side he could give some precise information about the alternative ways of making tea and the consumption tendency in the world and on the other hand he, as a CEO of one of the largest tea importing companies, discussed cooperation possibilities with Meghri farmers who are interested in tea ingredients’ production and export. This four-day event was full of experiments, consultancy, experience exchange and study: Meghri farmers, tea expert and M4M staff were drying pomegranate seeds and peel by the small electrical dryers, trying to understand how long they should be dried, at what temperature etc. Even though the overarching aim of this visit has been met, there are still issues to be solved as the product is new for Meghri region.
In order to fill in this gap, on December 9 till 12, 2014 M4M staff has organized the 4th B2B event which this time was devoted mainly to the perspectives of pomegranate and herbal tea production as well as dried fruit production. Around thirty five participants were present at different business meetings with the owners, executives of tea and dried fruit production companies. The overarching goal of the event was the idea generation of how to engage Meghri farmers in the tea production generally and to follow up the problems related to the dried fruit production in the region.
During the event Meghri farmers had a chance to directly interact with the representatives of main tea and dried fruit producers such as “Ararat Food Factory”, “Armenian Tea”, “Mega Ararat”, “ABDA”, “Bio Universal”, “Lucheetea”, “Jrashat”. Each of them had a very constructive discussion with Meghri farmers regarding the main opportunities as well as obstacles related to the further potential cooperation in the sphere of tea and dried fruit production. Producers also touched upon the hassles they face today working with farmers. The main identified obstacles were: lack of knowledge on producing special varieties of pomegranates and herbs, practical knowledge on collecting them; absence of formal group of farmers and collection center, resulting in improper and non-standard quality of the supplies from the region. The farmers, in their turn, were concerned by the issues related to the demand of big quantities and quality standards the assurance of which would require huge investments and organizational efforts.
To sum up this two-day event it is worth to mention that this was an unprecedented event as the main topic was tea production which is something very new for Meghri region. Some concrete results have been already reached at the end of the event: a common notion was elaborated among stakeholders which relates to the current situation in the herbal and pomegranate tea market, the main quality requirements here and volumes of production; and roles’ definitions of the involved parties. The participants also could initiate a joint working plan where all parties could suggest more realistic actions which surely should be further developed by M4M team’s facilitation.