Tea body fears 50% crop loss ahead

Unlike in the past, the fall in production has not been commensurate with strong price recovery, the Tea Association of India said

Updated - May 14, 2024 09:19 am IST

Published - May 14, 2024 09:18 am IST - GUWAHATI

Image for representational purposes only. Production across the tea estates of Assam and West Bengal may drop by 50% in the next few months if the region does not receive sufficient and well-distributed rainfall

Image for representational purposes only. Production across the tea estates of Assam and West Bengal may drop by 50% in the next few months if the region does not receive sufficient and well-distributed rainfall | Photo Credit: Ritu Raj Konwar

GUWAHATI Production across the tea estates of Assam and West Bengal may drop by 50% in the next few months if the region does not receive sufficient and well-distributed rainfall, an association of tea growers and manufacturers has said.

The projection of this fall in output has been based on data released by the Tea Board of India, indicating a drop in production of about 40% in Assam and 23% in West Bengal up to March 2024.

Citing the March 1-May 13 data published by the India Meteorological Department, the Tea Association of India (TAI) said significantly low average rainfall in these two major tea-growing States in February this year compared to the same period over the last six years is making the industry bleed.

The IMD data said the tea-growing districts of Assam and West Bengal received 2% to 76% less rainfall than the normal record during the first quarter of the calendar year.

To make matters worse, the production loss has not been commensurate with strong price recovery, as has been the case during the COVID-19 lockdown and adverse situations in the past, TAI secretary-general Prabir K. Bhattacharjee said.

“Tea is a rain-fed crop, and lack of sufficient rainfall during these important months hampers the production of its premium first flush and second flush,” he said, adding the loss of crop in this period impacts the output in the months that follow and the cash flows of the companies.

“Due to the lack of rainfall and high temperature, the region has witnessed significant wilting of tea bushes, which indicates further crop loss in the coming months. It is estimated that if sufficient and well-distributed rainfall is not received immediately, the crop loss may be over 50% in the coming months,” he said.

Mr. Bhattacharjee said the fall in prices along with the drop in production has been in stark contrast to the 2020 scenario during the COVID-19 closure. “While there is a marginal improvement in all-India auction average price in last two sales, the weekly average auction price was Rs. 6-33 less in all sales from the start of this calendar year,” he said.

He said the industry stands at a crossroads after the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) notified 20 chemicals “in addition to 33 chemicals specified for tea” banned in India.

“The TAI is committed to producing complaint teas,” he said, hoping that the Tea Board and FSSAI would establish a level playing field to usher in a regime of availability of compliant teas in the market.

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