Darjeeling tea, the flag-bearer of Indian tea and one of the most popular tea varieties globally, is staring at extinction. Production of Darjeeling tea has shrunk to 6.19 million kg in 2021, the lowest on record, according to the data provided by the Tea Board.
Although a 0.63-million kg rise in production happened in 2020, there has been a 50% drop compared with the region’s average production capability, tea industry sources said. Darjeeling produced 6.39 million kg in 2019.
Political agitation, Covid-19 pandemic, erratic weather conditions, unviable plantations, increasing cost of production have led to the fall of Darjeeling variety.
Further, quality was compromised with many planters plucking earlier then the due time for want of cash. A good first flush crop fetches 35% of Darjeeling tea’s entire year revenue. November production or the season’s last production was down at 0.35 million kg against 0.59 million kg during the same period last year.
Speaking to FE, Atul Asthana, CEO of Goodricke Tea, production in Darjeeling has been shrinking since 2017. From a level of 10 million kg, it has touched to six million kg. The quality has also been deteriorated in the odd 87 operational tea gardens.
“The existing bushes need uprooting and re-plantations urgently required. The cost of production in Darjeeling has touched Rs 700 a kg but prices both in international and domestic markets are not remunerative. Also, re-plantations cannot happen without government assistance but for the concerned ministry it might seem to be a very small matter for interference,” Asthana said.
In 2021, the first flush Darjeeling production, producing the finest variety and plucked between March and April, was badly hit at 0.66 million kg against 1.28 million kg during the same period in 2019, for a prolonged dry spell.