June , 2020
Reviving tea industry despite Covid-19
00:15 am

Kishore Kumar Biswas

The Covid-19 pandemic meant a muted celebration of International Tea day. The United Nations (UN) had declared May 21 as International Tea Day. India took the initiative for this and started this on its own on December 15, 2005. A year later, Sri Lanka celebrated it and it spread to the rest of the world. The purposeAt present, most tea-producing countries observe  International Tea Day on May 21 as the season of quality tea production starts in May. People relate it to production plan to boost tea production and consumption and produce better quality tea. It can be more fruitful if the working conditions of the tea garden workers are improved. The tea plantations can prosper if the demand for tea increases, year after year. Problem of the tea industryThe tea industry’s immediate problem is to restore production as soon as possible. Workers’ participation in tea gardens legally is not a bar in the Covid-19 period. Arun Kumar Ray, IPS, Deputy Chairman of Tea Board of India, said that the tea industry would not suffer a lot in the Covid-19 situation. About 10% production had been hampered due to lockdown announcement. But it might be made up if workers are allowed to work in the gardens. But the demand of the tea was a factor as the tea stalls were closed. Things could not be fully assessed as proper data was not available then.The export market is also a factor in this period where almost the entire world has been in crisis. But Ray said that one thing was important: as of June, no foreign buyers have cancelled their import orders of Indian tea. Nevertheless, export has been hampered due to the lockdown. The Indian Tea Association, reportedly claimed that there would be a huge loss of production of tea in Assam and West Bengal. The production loss would be around 14 crore kg. Therefore, the financial losses can be estimated to be around `2100 crore. This is not a good estimate as the sale prices of tea were much higher in the crisis period of April and May than they were earlier. Sources from the Tea Board of India said that earlier the average price was `140/kg. Now, the auction price is higher by about `60/kg. The estimation of loss may not be as high as was expected.Ray also pointed out that they have to wait for about two months for any assessment of production and loss of revenue of the industry. As good monsoon has been predicted by the government, they are hopeful about the tea sector.Small tea gardenersSmall tea gardens are not that hopeful. Bijoy Chakraborty, President, Confederation of Small Tea Growers Association, said that from December 20, 2019 to March 12, 2020, tea production and plucking of leaves were closed. After that there was the Covid-19 trouble. As a result, in March, they lost the first flush tea production by 40-50%. In May, production deficiency was 50%. In June, it is expected that about 30% of the production will be lost.He said that they thought that the total production might decrease by 150-200 million kg. At the same time, the price of tea was higher due to a shortage of supply. Western India, where tea consumption is high, has been highly affected by the Covid-19 crisis. Places like Ahmedabad, Pune, Mumbai, Jaipur, Indore etc. have been affected by the pandemic. So, demand for tea was less in dhabas, roadside tea stalls, hotels, and restaurants  as they were closed.The tea industry is facing a crisis but may recover if the monsoon is good and the intensity of the pandemic does not increase.     



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