Another source of worry, according to traders, is the incessant rainfall in the hills that may affect second flush production of Darjeeling teas.
“Exports in the first five months of 2018 were 7.5 lakh kg compared to 8 lakh kg in 2017. Foreign buyers had suffered a lot last year when the four-month long agitation in the hills demanding a separate Gorkhaland had choked the supply of tea,” said Kaushik Basu, secretary, Darjeeling Tea Association (DTA).
“Darjeeling teas went off the shelves in European countries last year. So this time they are cautious and they are lifting teas according to their requirement. The unit price realisation is almost similar to last year’s,” he said.
However, Nepalese teas, which had made their way into India and other international markets last year in the absence of Darjeeling teas, are commanding 10 per cent higher prices this year, said SS Bagaria, a Darjeeling planter and former chairman of DTA.
Demand for Darjeeling teas in the domestic market is quite strong this year.
Generally foreign buyers evince more interest when the second flush teas enter the market. Of the annual production of Darjeeling teas of about 8.5 million kg, nearly 1.7 million kg are first flush teas. First flush teas are those that are produced in the first two months of the new season. These teas are more delicate and tender and therefore more light, floral, fresh, brisk and astringent in flavour.
Basu said there has been continuous rainfall in the hills and that it might affect second flush production. “If the rain does not stop within two-three days it may affect second flush tea production in certain elevations,” he said.