World tea production hit a record high in 2003, mainly due to favorable weather conditions, the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (search) said Monday.

India maintained its position as the world's top tea producer, with 27.4 percent of world output, followed by China at 24.6 percent, the Rome-based FAO said.

The agency said China, where green tea accounted for 73 percent of production, was narrowing the gap with India, traditionally the world's largest producer.

In China, reported production rose from 766,000 tons in 2002 to 791,000 in 2003, while it fell in India from 857,000 tons in 2002 to 829,000 last year.

The agency also said India's tea exports fell by 13 percent, partly due to a sharp decrease in shipments to Iraq with the end of the U.N. oil-for-food program (search), run to help Iraqis cope with U.N. sanctions under Saddam Hussein (search).

The next biggest producers were Sri Lanka, with 9.75 percent of world tea output, and Kenya, with 9.4 percent.

Total tea production stood at 3.15 million tons, up from 3.075 million tons in 2002, the agency said. Tea prices averaged $1.51, 2.1 percent higher than in 2002.