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The hailstorms have led to severe injury to tea bushes that are on the verge of the start of the second flush yield, besides damaging the factory, trough shade, bungalows, staff quarters, generator rooms, and personal cars, among others.
Guwahati: Several tea gardens have been severely affected by hailstorms in Assam, India’s largest tea producer, leaving planters worried about the premium variety second flush tea.
The hailstorms have led to severe injury to tea bushes that are on the verge of the start of the second flush yield, besides damaging the factory, trough shade, bungalows, staff quarters, generator rooms, and personal cars, among others. Second-flush tea accounts for 20% of the total tea production and commands a premium in domestic and international markets.
The joint chairman of the North Eastern Tea Association (NETA), Vikash Agarwal, has said that bad weather has already left the tea industry battling in terms of both production and quality. The month of April has already witnessed a drop in crop yield. “With the kind of hailstorm witnessed in Tinsukia, several tea gardens, particularly in the Hapjan and Doomdooma belt, will be left with no second flush yield this year and will have to wait for more than 45 days for a new crop,” Agarwal added. “This means that there will be a significant drop in crop yield, resulting in a drastic drop in tea production.”
In 2022, India’s production of tea was 1365 million kgs, of which Assam’s production was 687 million kgs.
“The timing of the hailstorm could not have been worse. Tea planters were preparing for the second flush yield after registering a crop loss during the first flush,” said Joydeep Phukan, Secretary and Principal Officer of the Tea Research Association, Tocklai.
He added that almost 45 group gardens alone have been badly hit by hailstorms, and the area of damage in hectares will only increase if small tea growers are accounted for.
Citing an example of the devastation at a group garden, Phukan said that almost 550 hectares of the area were completely ripped off at the Hapjan Tea Estate belonging to Dhansiri tea. “The next 15 to 20 days will be very challenging as the recovery of tea bushes will be a key factor for future crop yield and the quality of tea that will be produced,” added Phukan.
He said that the vast scale damages include over 300 labour quarters and bungalows, over 5000 shade trees uprooted, nurseries, factory, and personal cars damaged.
For several years now, India’s tea industry has been struggling with issues like rising production costs, stagnant consumption, and subdued prices. However, recently, crop losses due to climate change have become a serious challenge for the tea industry in Assam, and planters are exploring steps to mitigate this problem.