Cold weather has been still continuing from evening to morning in north Bengal and Assam. This has affected the quality tea production in the region. The entire tea production in Bengal and Assam was mandatorily closed from December 19 to February 19. Every year tea production remains closed for these two months. But after that new tea leaves are produced, known as first flush. That is used for the production of quality tea. The first flush tea leaves are available in March and April. Teas produced from the first flush and also second flush are costly and remunerative and are mainly exported. But this time due to prolonged cold weather the production of first flush has been severely affected.
There is another reason, low rain fall in the last January and February which has hampered the availability of first flush quality tea. It is known that the rain fall has been about 50% less than normal rain fall, 35 cm-40 cm. during these months. The tea producers are very worried about the profitability of the gardens. Some tea producers told the reporter that at least 5%-7% earnings would be lost due to the recent unfavourable weather condition only in the tea garden areas of Bengal and Assam.
The producers also told that in the last year, that is in 2020 the entire production was closed due to Covid-19 as the gardens were closed in that phase. The producers could not reap the benefit of quality tea production in April, May and beyond in 2020. At present when almost all the teas have been sold in the last auctions there could be a possibility of supply constrain in tea. Producers could expect good earnings in this time but that might not be possible this year.
Export market will suffer most
India is one of the leading exporters of tea in the world. The biggest exporter is China. But it exports mainly green tea. India is the second biggest producer of tea in the world but in export it stands third. Kenya is the second largest exporter of tea. It produces and exports mainly red orthodox tea. India has a major advantage in marketing tea and that is more than 75% of its produce is sold domestically. But Kenya and Sri Lanka export most of their produce to other countries.
This year India has been facing a great difficulty in exporting tea. The first flush and second flush teas of many tea gardens of Darjeeling and Assam have been regarded as the best tea of the world. There have been special demands of the quality tea in the advanced economies of Europe, Japan and USA. They are famous for their flavour and quality liquor. The producers get very high prices for quality tea. But the gardens are not seeing good prospect for exports of quality tea due to unfavourable weather condition.
The industry expert reportedly said that Indian tea exports might take a hit this year as production in Kenya had produced more teas. Kenya’s production had increased to 570.44 million kg from 458.85 million kg. According to the industry experts everybody has been looking for how global tea prices would behave in the current year. The cost of Assam tea had already increased. This is because the wages of Assam tea workers had been increased by `50 - `217 per kg. If prices did not go up it would be a difficult year for the tea trade.
The export to Europe is uncertain even today
Last year, even in the early months of January and February, no one could think of severity of Covid-19 in India. On the other hand, many tea traders thought that India could get a chance of exporting tea to Europe. This was because at that time China was heavily attacked by Covid-19. Therefore regular consuming countries of Chinese tea were hesitant to import tea from China. Beverage demand from China began to decline heavily. So India could take the chance of that situation. But within a few weeks the entire situation changed.
In the present situation the Indian tea markets in Europe is very uncertain. Many countries of Europe which are very fond of Darjeeling tea are not able to buy the tea and the tea market is not properly open for exports. This is why the Indian tea producers are finding out domestic markets of quality tea in cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. It is known that many of the producers have been able to explore domestic markets to an extent. Perhaps this might be a new opening for the quality tea producers.