After three years, production of Assam tea has once again crossed the 500-million kg mark. The State has recorded a total production of 508.74 million kg for the year 2011. The figures for last three years were: 480.28 million kg in 2010, 499.99 million kg in 2009 and 487.49 million kg in 2008.

This is for the third time production of Assam tea has crossed the 500-million kg mark over the past 11 years. Total tea production in the country for 2011 is 988.32 million kg, which is the highest over the past 11 years.

North Eastern Tea Association (NETA) Chairman Bidyananda Barkakoty told The Hindu that the credit for the increase in Assam tea production goes to small growers. Production from small growers accounted for about 30 per cent of total production in the State, he said.

The jump in production of Assam tea was despite decrease of two million kg in the Brahmaputra Valley and a drop of three million kg in the Barak Valley in December, 2011, as compared to the corresponding month of 2010. “The decrease in tea production in December was due to less rainfall than required in October. If we had sufficient rainfall in October than we would have got a good pluck in November-December and the final production figure for 2011 would have touched about 513 million kg in Assam and India's total production too would have touched 1,000 million kg,” he said.

The NETA Chairman said that due to drop in November-December production, three weekly sales at the Guwahati Tea Auction Centre (GTAC) had to be dropped in March. “We hope that this year we will have a good demand as there is no tea in the pipeline and there is no chance for carry forward.”

Mr. Barkakoty said the Tea Board statistics showed that Darjeeling recorded 9.7 million kg in 2011 as compared to 8.86 million kg in 2010, Dooars 143.23 million kg (144.56 million kg) and Terai 73.33 million kg (76.35 million kg) while total production in West Bengal 226.36 million kg in 2011 as against 229.78 million kg in 2010.

In 2011, Tamil Nadu recorded a total production of 167.22 million kg, Kerala 68.34 million kg and Karnataka 5.30 million kg.

The Brahmaputra Valley is the single largest tea growing area in the world. Out of the total area under tea in the Brahmaputra Valley, 31 per cent are owned by small growers. According to a survey by the Assam Government, there are 68,465 small tea gardens in 14 districts of the Brahmaputra Valley. Tea is grown in almost all the 27 districts of the State. There are 825 large tea gardens in the State. There are about 1.58 lakh small tea gardens (size below 10.12 hectares) in India, cultivating tea on around 1.62 lakh hectares and producing nearly 260 million kg annually at 440 bought leaf factories. which account for about 26 per cent of the total tea produced in India (according to Tea Board statistics), Mr. Barkakoty said.

Tea was declared as the ‘State Drink' of Assam by Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi on November 22 at the World Tea Science Congress held in upper Assam's Jorhat town on the occasion of 100 years celebration of Tocklai Experimental Station of the Tea Research Association.

Keywords: Assam tea