10% loss in tea yield feared for dry spell

The tea gardens in the Dooars are apprehending at least 10 per cent loss in its annual production of 160 million kg because of a drought-like situation in the region over the past six months.

“About 15 per cent of the annual crop is produced by the middle of this month every year. We are worried that half of it has already been lost because of the absence of rain,” said Prabir Bhattacharya, the secretary of the Dooars Branch of the Indian Tea Association (DBITA).

According to him, the tea gardens of the region had experienced a similar situation in 1984 and 1989, when production was hampered because of the drought.

“Usually, we get at least 200 inches of rainfall every year and at least four to five inches of shower at this time of the season, that is from December-January to March-April. But this year there was hardly half-an-inch of rain which is quite unnatural,” Bhattacharya said.

There are 153 tea gardens in the Dooars and all are facing a drop in production not only because of the scarcity of rain, but for some other problems as well, said the DBITA secretary.

“The dry climate helps several pests to grow which are considered harmful for tea bushes. Red spider and red caterpillar are some of the insects which are threats to the gardens,” Bhattacharya said.

In the past couple of days, there were occasional drizzles in the region but Bhattacharya felt that the amount of rain was too less to make any impact on the tea industry. The drought-like situation and the pest attack on the bushes would escalate the cost of production, he said.

The weather observation centre of North Bengal University has, however, brought some good news to the stakeholders of the industry in the region.

The centre has forecast that a low pressure axis from the Bay of Bengal has entered the north-eastern region of the country including the sub-Himalayan Bengal and Sikkim. A thunderstorm and rain is expected because of the phenomenon, which will help remove the dry spell in the gardens.