Heavy rains, pests drag Assam tea output down

Written by Rohit Khanna | ROHIT KHANNA | Sudipta Datta | Kolkata | Updated: Aug 1 2010, 04:12am hrs
Incessant rains in Assam since April have severely affected the tea crop in India. According to Deepak Khaitan, vice-chairman, McLeod Russell, the largest tea producer in the world, the company has lost 35 lakh kg second flush tea in three months this season, due to rains and pest attacks.

Tea will be in short supply in the next two months. There has been crop loss across the tea industry. It still hasn't stopped raining in Assam, he said. Khaitan said India was headed for a 100 million kg shortage by September-October with the weather showing no signs of letting up.

Khaitan said the monsoons may have played truant in the north, but the rains have played havoc in the east, hitting productionalmost 25% of tea production is in the April-June period. The pest attacks along with the rain made matters worse, he added. The Tea Research Association had to conduct several seminars in upper and middle Assam and the north bank region. According to a TRA official, there are definite procedures (which maintains European standards) for pest control, which was difficult to follow due to heavy rain.

Acording to C S Bedi, MD, Rossell Tea, and chairman of Tea Research Association, the weather had a big role to play this year. All the companies which are into tea export have suffered a loss. The weather continued to be fatal for the crop till July 10 after which it has improved a little, he said.

We are almost 14% behind our production targets. The main concern for the exporters is quality tea and it becomes difficult for producers to grow quality crop in such a weather, Bedi added.

According to S Patra, joint secretary of Indian Tea Association, Plopeltis pest started attacking the leaves which eventually affected the stem of the plant. Most of the export-oriented companies were affected as second flush had to face a huge pest attack this year.

Industry sources said the year started with around 60 mkgs shortage in the pipeline. The loss of more than 20 mkgs was added to that till July.