Guwahati, April 22 : The crop prospect in the current season for the tea industry in Assam and West Bengal looks bleak due to the drought-like situation prevailing in both the states, a leading industry body said.
Tea Association of India (TAI) Secretary General P.K. Bhattacharya said that after the aftermath of prolonged period of lockdown and losing around 140 million kgs of made tea last year, the tea industry in north was hopeful for a fresh start in 2021, but is again foreseeing grim days ahead, faced as it is with the onslaught of natural calamities resulting in lesser crops.
In a statement, TAI said that the situation has worsened due to the recent massive hailstorm in the tea-growing regions of north Bengal.
According to the TAI, Assam has harvested only 0.23 million kg during the period of January-February this year as against 0.27 million kg last year and 0.44 million kg in 2019. It said that while the crop figure for the month of March is yet to be released by the Tea Board, the figure is expected to lower by around 10-15 per cent in March and April this year as compared to 2019.
"Similarly, north Bengal has harvested only 1.92 million kg this year as against 4.04 million kg in 2019 during January-February," Bhattacharya said.
He said that there is huge less rainfall recorded during January and February both in Assam and in north Bengal and the situation has worsened during the months of March and April as reported by the tea estates of both the states.
The TAI statement said that due to shortage of supply during the lockdown, tea prices witnessed a surge in prices for a brief period in 2020.
However, the price rise could not be sustained for a long period and auction prices subsequently declined sharply in the last few auction sales in 2020. However the increase in tea prices in 2020 has been largely offset by the loss in production.
The TAI said that Assam produces around 4.5 per cent of its total crop in the month of March and around 6 per cent in April which is around 32 million kg and 44 million kg, respectively. Similarly, West Bengal also produces around 5.5 to 6 per cent of its total crop in March and April amounting to around 23-25 million kg.
"The figure is expected to be lower by around 10-15 per cent in the month of March and April as compared to the corresponding period of 2019," the tea industry body said.