India’s tea production likely to drop

Himalayan News Service

Guwahati, April 28:

India’s tea production is likely to drop because cyclonic storms and torrential rains in the heart of the tea industry in Assam have damaged crops and inundated plantations. An Indian Tea Association (ITA) official said today that more than 100 gardens in Assam had been severely hit by heavy rains and cyclonic storms during the past one month. “We estimate a drop in India’s annual tea output by at least 10 per cent as a number of tea gardens have been severely hit,” Sumanta Guhathakurta, secretary of Assam’s Surma Valley chapter of the Indian Tea Association, said, “It would be a big setback to the tea industry as it is already reeling under a severe crisis.”

India’s $1.5 billion tea industry has been facing the worst crisis in the past century with prices dropping in the weekly auctions, besides facing a slump in export figures and domestic consumption of the beverage. India is the world’s largest tea producer, with Assam’s 800-odd gardens accounting for 55 per cent of total 823 million kg produced last year. India’s tea production dropped from 870 million kg in 1998 to 823 million kg last year, while exports accounted for just 25 per cent of the production.

“In southern Assam, a number of tea manufacturing factories and workers’ colonies have been damaged by regular hailstorms in the area spanning over the last one month,” the tea official said, “This unprecedented weather condition has led to an overall disruption in daily schedules in most gardens.” In the last weekly auctions, a kilogram of top quality Assam tea fetched around Rs 73 Indian Currency (IC) - lower by at least Rs 25 IC compared to 1998.

The slump was largely attributed to inferior quality tea being produced by various Indian gardens, while the exports have gone down with cheap quality beverage being offered by countries like Sri Lanka, Kenya, and Bangladesh. “Things were beginning to show up when bad weather came as a severe blow to the industry. We are in for bad days again,” another tea official said.