Olympics end tea break

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By SANJAY MANDAL in Calcutta
  • Published 1.07.08
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Calcutta, July 1: A consignment of Makaibari green tea will leave tomorrow for guests at the Beijing Olympics.

With the bandh in the hills temporarily suspended, Darjeeling tea gardens have rushed to send their consignments to Calcutta for export to the global auction markets.

After a break of nearly three weeks, the first consignment of second flush Darjeeling tea will be loaded on a Singapore Airlines flight tomorrow.

A 333kg consignment, which includes second flush green tea from Makaibari Tea Estate, costing Rs 7,000 per kg, will be sent for the Beijing Olympics. Two other consignments, of 616kg and 110kg, from other tea gardens will be flown to Tokyo.

“The consignment was scheduled to be sent on June 22 but it got delayed. It is one of our best quality teas and is sent for special guests at the Olympics,” said P.K. Chakraborty, manager, Makaibari Tea Estate.

Emirates is scheduled to carry Darjeeling tea after July 15, an airline official said.

Since June 10, no consignment of Darjeeling tea could be exported out of Calcutta’s airport and port because of the shutdown forced by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha.

“Around 80 per cent of the second flush Darjeeling tea is exported. So, with the bandh temporarily lifted now, the planters are trying to clear their warehouses as quickly as possible,” said Basudeb Banerjee, chairman, Tea Board of India.

“However, this does not mean the entire product would be rushed for export. The mercantile export agents in Calcutta would hold the stock for better prices and also to keep supply going if there are further disruptions,” a tea industry source said.

Exporters and planters said the supply of tea was still irregular and they feared another round of disruptions once the bandh resumed on July 5.

A brief spell of showers in May kicks off the second flush season, after the first flush ends in late April. As the rains set in, monsoon flush tea is produced. The quality then deteriorates and fetches lower prices.

Darjeeling produces about one million kg of tea in June, the average price being Rs 800-1,000 a kg. Tea worth Rs 2 crore is exported every day and a day’s loss in production costs the planters Rs 3.33 crore.

The annual production is 10-11 million kg, of which 70 per cent is exported to meet the huge demand in the US, the UK, Germany, Japan and other developed countries. Darjeeling accounts for 7 to 8 per cent of the Rs 1,800-2,000 crore India earns from tea export every year.

Along with tea, Kalimpong’s flower export will also resume. A 300kg sample consignment of orchid will be sent to Tokyo. “We are expecting large consignments later this week,” said a Singapore Airlines official.