GUWAHATI: The Tea Board of India has predicted that the ongoing lockdown will affect tea output in Assam and West Bengal – the two major tea producing States of the country.
“Since the majority of gardens in Assam and West Bengal are locked down through three vital weeks of the production cycle, the first-flush crop due for plucking through the early spring is likely to be overgrown by mid-April. The estimated loss will be around 150 million kg of tea,” a source in the Tea Board said.
The revenue loss for Assam tea estates will be nearly 12 per cent, said sources. The tea leaves will overgrow, affecting the quality during the second flush that begins mid-May.
“New leaves, due for plucking, were left untouched since March 22. Going by the present lockdown schedule, the gardens will remain non-operational until mid-April. Skiffing of tea bushes will take another three weeks when the gardens reopen after the lockdown is withdrawn. Under such circumstances the gardens will face a major setback in its production,” the source said.
On other hand, the State’s tea industry has demanded the Centre to provide a financial package to tide over the crisis following the lockdown due to corona virus pandemic.
The Consultative Committee of Plantation Associations (CCPA) has already written to the Centre stating that the shutdown of the tea industry due to COVID-19 at the beginning of the manufacturing season has virtually disabled the industry as seasonal production of the sector has ceased.
“Support in the wake of the COVID-19 has been announced for many sectors. The tea industry, in view of its financially-stressed condition, requires a financial relief package to tide over this crisis. Tea bushes during this period need to be harvested within seven to nine days’ cycle. Prolonged closure will require the overgrown leaf to be sniffed as this is not suitable for manufacture,” the CCPA said in its letter.