A severe and abnormal rainless weather condition has hit hard Assam tea industry as production of green leaf is expected to be down by 20 per cent across the state till April, with the worst affected is the Brahmaputra Valley. The unfavourable weather has delayed the arrival of first flush (production till April), triggering fears of upping of prices at auction centres.
As per predictions of the tea industry, the production of first flush is expected to be down by almost 13 million kgs, which would amount to 20 per cent dip in first flush production and around 3 per cent dip in total production, as compared to last year’s figures. Assam last year produced 64 million kgs of tea till April and 492 million kgs of tea till November.
“It is very difficult to arrive at any percentage figure capturing the dip in production, but after extensive consultations I had with people on the ground, I see that till April, the production would be down by around 20 per cent. If we can’t overcome this shortfall in successive months, then it will amount to around 3 per cent dip in total production of Assam tea in 2012,” said Bidyananda Barkakoty, chairman of North Eastern Tea Association (NETA).
Such severe rainless weather condition is unprecedented in a decade, with the last in recent memory being in the year 2001. Unlike previous years, this time all the tea producing districts in the state, particularly in Brahmaputra Valley, are experiencing rainless weather condition. A drop of 20 per cent of rainfall, as compared to previous years with normal weather condition, has been experienced in all the tea producing districts of Brahmaputra Valley.
“The production scenario is very bad, particularly in Brahmaputra Valley. The last time we experienced such unfavourable weather condition was in the year 2001,” Barkakoty said.
He said that only those tea gardens which had irrigation facilities were able to produce green leaves, with the rest lurching behind. However, Barkakoty said things were not as grim in Barak Valley (south Assam) as in Brahmaputra Valley as the former had received few spells of rain in past weeks.
Nevertheless, the industry is not pessimistic as it feels the decline in production of first flush could be overcome in later months if weather condition improves as first flush amounts for just 10 per cent of total production of Assam tea in a year.
“If the weather condition improves later, there would be nothing to worry as we can overcome the drop in the initial months,” Barkakoty added.