The coronavirus pandemic is hurting the Darjeeling Tea industry
The coronavirus pandemic is hurting the Darjeeling Tea industry, representatives of the Darjeeling Tea Association (DTA) said on Friday.
According to the planters, the first flush is ready in tea gardens, where production resumed on February 21, but because of the outbreak and the resultant travel restrictions, international buyers have not been able to come to Darjeeling.
“Every year, buyers from European countries and Japan visit Darjeeling to check out the first flush and buy tea of their choice. However, as the Centre has announced restrictions on the entry of foreign nationals and suspension of visas, these buyers have not come to the hills,” said Sandeep Mukherjee, principal adviser to the DTA.
As many as 87 tea estates produce Darjeeling Tea in the hills. In 2019, the total production had been around eight million kilos.
“Around 20 per cent of the tea is produced from the first flush, but it generates over 30 per cent of the total revenue. If the first flush tea is not merchandised properly in the international market, it will be a huge loss for the industry. The industry is yet to recover from the prolonged strike of 2017 and now if the situation does not improve, it will be a new crisis for the sector,” said a planter based in Siliguri.
The DTA representatives said the cancellation of flights from India to different countries, some of which are consistent buyers of Darjeeling Tea, has further complicated the situation.
“Tea ready for export cannot be sent. We are in touch with the Union ministry and receiving updates. There is no doubt that eventually, the current situation will have a cascading effect on the industry,” Mukherjee said.