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A long dry spell since November in the Assam and West Bengal tea estates is likely to impact the production of premium first flush teas. Leading tea producers said if it doesn't rain within the next 10 days, then the first flush tea production will decline 25% and may lead to a price increase for retail consumers.
The first flush teas are produced between February and April and are usually more delicate and tender and therefore lighter, floral, fresh, brisk and astringent in flavour.
“Weather is dry and there has been no rain in most parts of Assam. The dry spell has been continuing since November. The daytime temperature in Assam on Monday is 30 degrees. The tea bushes need rain now for the new leaves of the season to come out,” said Mohit Agarwal, director, Asian Tea.
India produces 100-120 million kg of first flush teas.
A shortfall in production will push up tea prices at auction centres and impact retail prices in turn.
Dhunseri Tea & Industries chairman CK Dhanuka said the weather is a real concern. “If it rains well within the next fortnight, we will be able to reduce loss in production,” he said.
In 2022, India produced 1,340 million kg of teas. Exports of tea, during the January-November 2022 period, stood at 207.89 million kg, up from 176.53 million kg a year ago.
Dhanuka said the tea industry expects the Centre to come out with a floor price for tea which will help the sellers. “As of now it is a buyers’ market for tea, but the dynamics will change when the minimum floor price is introduced,” he said.
Tea prices are currently governed by demand and supply, so when there is excess crop, the prices fall and during times of lower production, they increase.
A floor price could take into account the cost of production, ensuring a self-sustainable model for both small and large producers, said Dhanuka.