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Julie Christie to relive roots in Assam

art-and-culture Updated: Jun 26, 2007 17:15 IST
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Hollywood actor Julie Christie will get to rediscover her roots when she visits Assam where she was born in 1941.

The Academy Award winning actor of Darling and Dr Zhivago, born at the Chabua tea plantation in eastern Assam, is likely to attend the three-day India-International Tea Festival scheduled November 22 in Guwahati.

"Julie Christie is expected as a guest. It would give her an opportunity to trace her roots and at the same time help promote Assam tea in Hollywood," Minister of State for Commerce Jairam Ramesh told IANS.

The festival, dubbed the Great Indian Tea Party, is being organised jointly by the Tea Board of India, Indian Tea Association and Indian Trade Promotion Organisation to draw foreign buyers. About 400 delegates are expected to attend.

"We are expecting delegates from Pakistan, Iran, Egypt, Russia, and Britain. The festival is expected to help boost tea exports," said Assam Industry Minister Pradyut Bordoloi.

Long before the commercial production of tea started in India in the late 1830s, the tea plant grew wild in the jungles of Assam.

Members of Singpho tribe, who too will attend the festival, used to eat the leaves like a vegetable with garlic besides drinking the brew after dipping the leaves in boiled water.

India's $1.5 billion tea industry is presently facing a crisis, with prices dropping in the weekly auctions since 1998 and exports plummeting as well.

The slump in prices and exports has been largely attributed to cheap and inferior tea produced by many new tea-growing countries, thereby pushing premium quality Indian teas to facing stiffer competition.

"The tea festival would help increase exposure of Indian tea to foreign buyers," the minister said.

India's traditional tea market in Russia and Britain has been severely hit with both countries getting cheap tea from Kenya and Sri Lanka. The Indian government is now eyeing new markets.

"Pakistan, Iraq, UAE, Egypt and Iran are some of the new markets developing for us," Ramesh said.

India has already set up a marketing bureau in Tehran and will soon open an office in Cairo to promote tea. India is the world's largest tea producer after China with a record crop of 955 million kg last year. India exported 200 million kg in 2006.