“The dry spell is continuing in most parts of Assam and West Bengal. There have been some rains in Jorhat, Tinsukia and Dibrugarh areas this week but that is not sufficient,” said Vivek Goenka, chairman of the Indian Tea Association. “The rainfall was between 2 mm and 7 mm. Ideally, the tea estates should receive 25 mm rains for better production of first flush teas.”
Azam Monem, director of McLeod Russel India, said cold weather was still prevailing in the tea estates. “Unless the temperature moves up, there will be no rains. This cold weather should not continue for long.”
However, planters are upbeat about the quality of teas that will be produced from the beginning of the season, as the estates were closed in early-December following a Tea Board directive. This gave them time to prune tea bushes properly and therefore the new leaves will be of better quality than normal.
Monem said there were still 11 million kilogram of teas from last year that are lying at the auction centres and yet to be sold. “Since there was no production in January and very little production in December, it will be easier for these teas to get absorbed in the system till the first flush teas come to the market. This augurs well for the industry,” he said.
In January 2018, tea estates in Assam and West Bengal had produced 5.29 million kg of teas. “This tea will not be there in the market this time,” said Monem.
“So, overall, there is a shortage of 20 million kg,” said Monem. The Tea Board initiative on early closure of gardens in December has been well received by both planters and buyers. While the reduction of 20 million kg of tea may not push up prices significantly, it has improved market sentiment.