Calcutta, April 23: Extremely dry weather conditions would severely crimp tea production, an industry association warned today.
The Indian Tea Association said the continuous dry and drought-like condition in Assam and north Bengal would lead to poor recovery from tea bushes and rise in costs, while giving a muted crop outlook.
An impending wage negotiation due in Bengal and a delayed application of fertilisers because of inadequate rain may cause further havoc in the industry.
Adverse weather conditions have prevailed since the beginning of the new season of 2014. Total rainfall from January till April 20 has been 71mm against a crop requirement of 310mm during the period in Northern Assam.
“With the drought and wages, cost escalation will happen. There could be a 20-25 per cent rise in the cost of production. The Darjeeling market does not look very good,” ITA chairman Arun N. Singh said.
The ITA estimates reveal the steepest shortfall in rain of 49 per cent in upper Assam districts between January and March, covering Dibrugarh, Doom Dooma, Naharkatia, Moran, Tingri and Panitola.
The Terai (the Siliguri sub-division of Darjeeling district) witnessed a 40 per cent decline in rain, while Darjeeling, which has close to 87 estates, has seen a 37 per cent shortfall.
The Dooars and lower Assam have received 35 per cent and 25 per cent less rain, respectively.
The industry body today said the situation in the northern region of Assam Valley, comprising the districts of Nagaon, North Lakhimpur, Bishnauth, Tezpur, Borsola and Mangaldoi, has deteriorated further in April.
“Drought conditions are reflecting in a poor recovery of tea bushes after pruning or skiffing operations. This would adversely impact the April and May crop. There has been a delayed application of fertilisers and other growth promoting agents in the absence of adequate rainfall. Any rise in pest infestation could lead to significant crop losses,” the statement said.
Leaf defoliation and scorching, or the browning of plant tissues, have raised the instances of pest attacks.