Photo: Twitter
Photo: Twitter

COVID-19: Tea production shortfall likely to be 100 million kg

India had produced around 1,389 million kgs of tea in 2019

Tea production in the country is likely to fall by 100 million kg this year due to the 21-day lockdown which was "inevitable" to tackle the coronavirus crisis, an official said on Wednesday.

The country had produced around 1,389 million kgs of tea in 2019, he said.

"The lockdown was inevitable as there is no other option to prevent the spread of the disease. However, the country's tea production will be hit and this will lead to a collapse of the industry," Tea Board Chairman P K Bezbaruah told PTI.

It will take time to bring tea bushes again to the production stage, he said.

Tea Board's deputy chairman Arun Kumar Ray said that the "likely shortfall in production due to lockdown would be around 100 million kg this year", which could lead to rise in prices.

"The impact of the coronavirus outbreak will be felt across the globe. The priority is to prevent community transmission," Ray said.

With this lockdown, Darjeeling tea planters will lose first flush production, a premium variety, by around 30 per cent, Bezbaruah said

The loss of production in West Bengal's Dooars is likely to be around 11 per cent and 10 per cent in Assam, he said.

Tea plucking during the lockdown period has been banned by the Tea Board but there should be restrictions on the entry of outsiders in the tea gardens, Bezbaruah said.

"Some of the workers' colonies are very congested. They do not maintain proper hygiene," he said, adding that it is very difficult to ensure social distancing among the workers.

Indian Tea Association (ITA), the apex body of planters, said almost all the gardens are closed owing to the lockdown.

"We will assess crop loss in a day or two," ITA secretary general Arijit Raha said.

Rudra Chatterjee, Director of Luxmi Tea Company which owns the famous 'Makaibari' brand, said tea should be considered as an essential item like any other agricultural produce.

"Production should not be halted. If this situation continues, the most of tea planters will find it difficult to meet the wage bill of the workers. If production is allowed, there should be adequate safeguard to maintain hygiene," he added.

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