Tea production across India dipped marginally by 2.35 million kg for the four months of 2007, mainly on account of the massive fall in production in South India, reeling under a severe dry spell.
According to figures available at India’s tea promotion body, the Tea Board, the total production for January-April is 152.04 million kg, compared with 154.39 million kg during the same period last year.
Production in South India fell by about 10%—from 70 million kg to 62.23 million kg— but in North India went up by about 5%, from 84.38 million kg to nearly 89.81 million kg in the first four months of 2007.
Manojit Dasgupta, secretary general of the tea trade body, Indian Tea Association, says though January and February were lean months with poor production across West Bengal and Assam, the scene improved during the next two months owing to favourable weather conditions, especially in Assam.
This accounts for the rise in production in these areas outside the South. Even though West Bengal and Assam are part of eastern India, for the purpose of tea production they are considered part of the northern market. Dasgupta fears that the uneven distribution of rainfall, especially in West Bengal in May, can affect production in the coming months.
In the South, a long dry spell without pre-monsoon showers has had an effect on the production with Kerala reporting a crop fall of nearly 5 million kg and Tamil Nadu having a loss of nearly 3 million kg. It was only the Nilgiris belt of Tamil Nadu with sufficient rainfall that had a better yield during the period, says Ullas Menon, secretary general of the grower’s body United Planters Association of South India.
Across the North, there was a marginal increase in prices, with the auction centre in Kolkata registering a rise of over Rs2 per kg bringing the average price to nearly Rs70 and in Guwahati around the same level.
However, at the Siliguri auction centre, there was only a marginal increase. Dasgupta says that with the steady increase in tea to the auction centres, there were indications over the last month that prices would fall but he expressed the hope that the fall in prices will be arrested.
According to Sankar Menon of a leading broking firm Carrit and Moran, the price of the CTC (cut, tear, curl) variety has been dropping since May and the bottom-end ones were selling around Rs37 a kg and the better ones Rs60-65. The rupee appreciation has taken away exports of these bottom-end types.
The higher quality orthodox teas, especially the Nilgiris ones, were fetching around Rs70-80 a kg.
Tea trade sources say reports of a fall in crop in Sri Lanka have seen Kenya taking the advantage exporting around 92 million kg, up from 75 million kg in 2006.
Kenya, which witnessed a severe drought in 2006, has reported a production of nearly 140 million kg in the first four months from around 60 million kg during the same period last year. This has resulted in putting a check on massive price rise, trade added.