| Troubled times
Silchar, Aug. 22: Continuous decline in the output of CTC tea in Cachar tea region and its plummeting prices at the auctions have sent shivers down the spine of planters and tea traders.
Officials of the Indian Tea Association (ITA) and the Tea Association of India (TAI) said production of CTC tea, Cachar’s lone tea brand, has become so sluggish this calendar year that its average output could dip below last year’s average production of 51 million kg.
Tea industry sources here said the average price of Cachar CTC brand at present hovers at Rs 111.89. In April, the average price was estimated at Rs 144.62, clearly demonstrating that even in conditions of scarcity the price trends could not exploit the demand advantage.
Last month, Cachar plantations produced 4.58 million kg tea against 5.58 million kg in June.
The Cachar tea region, which has 103 gardens, is spread over three districts of Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi in south Assam.
The main culprit spoiling last year’s “feel-good mood” pervading the tea estates in the Cachar tea region is adverse weather conditions marked by high temperature and scarcity of rains during the summer months and the monsoon season which took off in June.
The average temperature of 36 degrees Celsius in the last few months and simultaneous lack of showers in the tea gardens have not come as a good omen for the Cachar tea region. The total average rainfall in the region, calculated at the fourth week of this month, has been 1,800mm while the normal rainfall is measured at an average of 3,000mm.
During searing heat in the past few months, the tea grooves and their green shoots in many a garden in Cachar have shrivelled, causing a decline in the output of tea.
Raj K. Sinha, chairman of the Barak Valley branch of TAI, had earlier told this correspondent that the slender, hair-like roots of tea plants had dried in many gardens even where these had gone deeper into the crevices of the earth.
He said the situation in Cachar tea region had become complicated with the declining trend of the showers this monsoon. The rain makes the gardens cooler, which is conducive to a surge in tea production.
A sample survey of 31 tea estates conducted by TAI last month revealed that all these plantations had suffered a fall in their average quantum of rain, ranging between 19 per cent in Poloi tea garden in Cachar district to 32 per cent in nearby Derby tea estate, thus indicating an erratic rainfall behaviour.
However, there are also signs of impressive growth in production of tea crop of the CTC variety which is used as a blender with other teas churned out in other regions in the country though the atmospheric conditions were not ideal for such production.
At least two gardens in this region can serve as examples of their grim combat against the vagaries of the nature — Rosekandi and Binnakandi, both in Cachar district.
Rosekandi reaped a harvest of 225,111 kg of CTC in July, against 212,888 kg produced in the same month last year. Binnakandi, termed as one of the market leaders in the tea trade in Assam, got an yield of 125,358 kg of processed tea against an output of 118,682 kg in the same month last year.