April 28: Tea growers in north Bengal said yesterday’s light rainfall would help the plants to some extent as fresh leaves were likely to come up and pest attacks might decrease.
The tea industry in the region was affected by the absence of rainfall since March 20. The plants were in the grip of pest attacks and the plucking had to be stopped.
“Spraying water through irrigation can never meet the gap caused by lack of rainfall. Also, there are several small tea plantations where growers cannot provide water through irrigation. Yesterday’s rain would help the tea industry as a whole. We hope fresh leaves would come up because of a change in the weather. Pests had destroyed tealeaves because of the scorching heat and the rain will help reduce such attacks,” said Amitangshu Chakraborty, the principal advisor to the Indian Tea Planters’ Association.
A planter said tea cultivation had been hit in the past one month because of the dry spell. “We had to stop plucking because of rise in temperature and absence of rainfall since March 20. The dry spell occurred ahead of the second flush, which is known to be of excellent quality and fetch good prices. Yesterday’s rainfall has brought some respite to the industry. We look forward for more rainfall in the coming days as there are forecasts of thundershower by the India Meteorological Department,” said a planter.
According to IMD sources, Madarihat recorded a rainfall of 7.10mm yesterday, while Malbazar and Dhupguri received 3.28mm and 15.98mm of rain, respectively. The rainfall recorded at other places in north Bengal were 16.74mm in Alipurduar, 28.27mm in Kalchini, 15.74mm in Mohitnagar, 10mm in Siliguri and 12mm in Jalpaiguri.
Following the rainfall, the maximum and minimum temperatures have also come down in the region. In Jalpaiguri, the average maximum and minimum temperatures had been hovering around 35-37 degrees Celsius and 22-25 degrees Celsius, respectively.
In the past 24 hours, the maximum temperature has come down to 33 degrees Celsius and the minimum to 20 degrees Celsius in Jalpaiguri.
Small tea growers, however, do not think that the crisis is over yet. “Because of the dry weather over a month, several acres of tea plantations have been damaged. Our members are in a pathetic situation and many of them have stopped plucking tealeaves as no fresh leaves are coming up in the bushes,” said Bijoygopal Chakraborty, the president of Confederation of Indian Small Tea Growers’ Associations.
Although the rain was light, it would help other farmers as well. “The rain would largely help farmers who planted jute and vegetables. There is now relief for dried up agricultural fields and saplings,” said Tapan Sarkar, an agricultural department officer.