Dry spell to hit tea production

Absence of rain has hit the tea industry hard in north Bengal.

Ruing the dry spell in Jalpaiguri today, the Dooars Branch Indian Tea Association secretary, Mr Prabir Bhattacharya, said that the planters had not experienced such conditions in many years. “We did not experience such drought after 1984. The dry spell has scorched tea bushes in most plantations and we fear a severe drop in production this year,” he said.

“We fear production would be down by 10 per cent this year. The industry has already lost 50 per cent of the first flush crop normally realized between 15 March and 15 April. The Dooars receive about 250 inch rainfall a year but the region has received a paltry 1/2 inch rain in the past six moths spoiling the first flush tea, which is the best quality,” he said. According to him, the Dooars requires 6-7 inch rainfall in the next few days or the conditions would become irreversible.In addition to wilting for lack of rain, the tea bushes are coming under relentless pest attack. “Spiders, caterpillars and the lot are taking toll of the tea bushes. Both the drought and pest would increase the production cost this year by a considerable degree,” he said. According to him, the Dooars has an average annual production of 160 million kg tea. “We fear about 12 million kg shortfall this year. The industry has informed the state government of the situation and we are waiting for a response,” the secretary said.