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Dry spell spells doom for tea bush

- Cloud on second flush

Guwahati, April 23: Drought-like conditions prevailing over Assam and North Bengal are likely to push up the cost of tea production, the Indian Tea Association has warned.

“Severe drought prevailing over tea-growing regions will result in sharp escalation of cost of irrigation and any rise in pest infestation could lead to significant crop losses, further pushing up the cost of production,” the Indian Tea Association said in a statement released today.

In 2012-2013, of the country’s 1,135.07 million kg of tea, Assam contributed 535.57 million kg — which was 53 per cent of the country’s total tea output.

Industry sources said the cost of producing 1kg of tea in Assam is between Rs 120 and 130 per kg, depending on the yield of the garden.

“The increase in crop production can be known after the total crop loss is ascertained,” Monojit Dasgupta, secretary general of ITA, told The Telegraph.

“The drought conditions are reflecting in poor recovery of tea bushes after pruning operations and wilting of foliage is being widely observed. This will adversely impact the April and May crop,” the statement said.

“The health of tea bushes has been affected and they have started wilting,” Jayant Singhania, director of Nahorjan tea estate in Bokakhat, said.

Since the beginning of this year, adverse weather conditions have been wreaking havoc on tea bushes in both Assam and north Bengal, the association said.

If the dry conditions continue through April, the current and future crop outlook will be depressed.

Tea gardens are concerned over the prospect of mounting distress, particularly in the backdrop of the impending wage revision in Bengal and Assam. In the prime tea areas of Margherita, Doom Dooma, Naharkatia, Tingri, Panitola, Dibrugarh and Moran in Upper Assam, rainfall has been down by 49 per cent since January to March. In Sonari, Jorhat, Golaghat, rainfall is down by 25 per cent.

“We are trying to survive the drought. The April crop is gone and the second flush will be delayed,” secretary of Indian Tea Association’s Assam branch, Sandip Ghosh, told The Telegraph.

Second flush, or spring flush is commonly plucked between May and June and it is very highly regarded as an exceptional tea with prominent character and delicious flavour. It is famed for its fuller and more rounded taste and bright liquor.

The situation in the north bank of the Brahmaputra valley has deteriorated further in April, according to rainfall data captured by the Tea Research Association’s meteorological station at Thakurbari.

Total rainfall from January till April 20 has been recorded at 71mm against the crop water requirement of 310mm for this period under typical north bank conditions.


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