A major setback to the tea industry in Assam, scanty rainfall causing drought-like situation has severely affected tea production in the state.
Adviser to the North Eastern Tea Association (NETA), Bidyananda Barkatoky said 2021 has been an unusual year for tea production due to deficit rainfall.
"A study has been carried out to assess the crop loss due to the impact of prolonged drought-like situation. This study has also taken into account the rainfall received in the last few days", said Bidyananda Barkakoty.
"As per our study, the crop deficit from January to May this year will be about 60 million kgs compared with the same period in the year 2019. We have not compared crop figures with the year 2020 because last year the crop deficit from January to May was 78 million kgs due to Covid lockdown. In percentage terms, the crop deficit from Jan to May this year will be about 40% compared to same period in 2019" said Barkakoty.
NETA's chairman Sunil Jallan also reflected that the industry was already suffering due to the pandemic followed by the lockdown and lack of rainfall has made the situation worse.
"Tea industry of Assam is facing tough times again this year. Last year the tea industry suffered due to lockdown and this year severe deficit of rainfall in the early part of the season has caused havoc in tea production", said Mr. Jallan.
"Due to very low crop till May and likely impact in crop for June as well, there has been huge revenue deficit for Assam tea industry", added Nalin Khemani, Chairman Bharatiya Cha Parishad (BCP).
Moreover, fluctuations in weather conditions have created havoc for sufficient crop production.
"Extreme weather fluctuations both in terms of temperature and rainfall have impacted the growth of tea leaves severely. The temperature drop from 34 to 19 degrees centigrade coupled with hardly any sunshine for the last one week, preceded by temperatures above 34 degrees centigrade is playing havoc with the crop", said Mrigendra Jalan, Adviser BCP.
The former chairman of NETA, Manoj Jallan, also claimed such a devastating drought situation was not observed for atleast 30 years.
"We do not remember facing such a prolonged drought in the last 30 years. Apart from the huge loss of crops due to rainfall deficit, the drought at the very beginning of the tea season has also delayed the application of fertilisers by around two months. This will only add to the loss of crop during the ensuing peak harvesting months", said Manoj Jallan.
The average rainfall deficit is about 45% from January to April this year compared with the same period last year in the main tea growing districts of Assam – Golaghat to Tinsukia.
Notably, nowadays rainfall is highly localised and there is a difference in quantum of rainfall within few kilometres of distance.