India is set to close the year with a substantial shortfall of tea crop, a possible 30 million kgs lower than the previous year.

Industry estimates that output may be around 950 million kgs.

The crop-loss witnessed early in the season has persisted through the year, and output figures available with the organised industry indicated a sharp drop this year.

Assam, which accounts for half of the Indian tea crop and averages around 1000 million kgs, is down by about 10 million kgs till September.

“By the end of 2012, we fear a drop of about 30 million kgs” a senior tea planter said.

The picture is no different in in the South either. Tea crop has been declining since 2008 but a spike in 2011 had raised industry’s hopes of breaching the 1000-million kg mark. However, the year ended with a crop of 988 million kgs.

Improved prices of loose and packet teas are providing little solace to the industry, which feels that the volume-loss cannot be compensated by upturn in prices as costs are also high on account of inputs such as pesticide and fertilisers.

Another underlying fear running through the industry isthe recent killing of a tea-planter in Assam last week.

When contacted for his comments on this issue, C S Bedi,chairman of the Indian Tea Association, said : “ We are only hoping that it is not a resumption of the days of the nineties. It will set back the morale of the people and the industry will lose talent at a time when it is needed the most.”