Flush delay in rainless Dooars

The absence of rain during this winter has posed a threat to the tea industry in the Dooars.

Tea bushes have dried up because of scanty rainfall and insects have damaged the bushes. Experts apprehend that the first flush will not be available and second may be delayed for the dry weather.

According to Met office, the rainfall in the Dooars was 0.3mm in December 2007, 12.4mm in January 2008 and 9.6mm in February that year. But there has absolutely been no drop of rain in the region during the corresponding period this year (see chart).

Not only the rainfall, the minimum and maximum temperatures are also two degrees above what it should be now.

The planters are worried about the absence of rain. Amitangshu Chakroborty, the secretary of the Dooars Branch of Indian Tea Planter’s Association, said: “The situation is alarming because of the inadequate rainfall. The first flush is in the first week of March every year and the plucking as well as manufacturing start in the gardens immediately.”

Chakroborty said even if the gardens resorted to artificial irrigation — the process is so costly that only few estates can afford it — the first as well as second flushes would be delayed by at least one month.

According to a garden manager, the demand for tea in Pakistan (the country is one of the “prime” buyers of the Indian brew) has decreased because of political disturbances. On the other, the wages of workers have also increased. In such a situation, the inadequate rainfall has added to the worries of the garden authorities.

Pradeep Ghosh, the chief advisory officer of the Tea Research Academy in Nagrakata, voiced a similar concern. “Normally, rainfall should be two centimetres in February and three centimetres in March. But in this season, the last shower was on October 8. If it does not rain within the next 15 to 20 days, the situation will turn grave,” he said.

Ghosh suggested that the garden authorities should not go for plucking in such a situation, but instead concentrate on artificial watering.

“Insects like red spiders and loopers have eaten up the bushes. To prevent the attack, strong pesticide is usually sprayed but that delays the flushes,” he said.