Drought Worries Continue in China and Darjeeling

Wheat in drought fieldWeather patterns are never far from the minds of farmers and the dry spring has been weighing on the minds of tea farmers in China. World Tea News reported on some of the worries a few weeks ago. Unfortunately there has not yet been a substantive change. As Mark Turner from Zhi Zheng Tea reported in a recent blog post, “Very dry, not so much tea. After it rains, there will be lots more, but then there’s at least a few days after the rain where it won’t be worth having if anyone picks it.”

The China Daily, however, predicted that the drought conditions will not lead to higher Longjing prices. Shang Jiannong, president of Hangzhou Xihu District Longjing Tea Industry Association told the publication that the tea trees killed last year by the dry conditions were newer plants that accounted for only a small percentage of the plantings. The older plants survived and are being harvested. Increased irrigation efforts last year also provided protective factors. Many tea purveyors will be keeping a close eye on the skies as they wait to hear if there is further damage from the continued dry weather.

China is not the only place feeling pressure from the weather. Reports from Darjeeling are bleak. The Business Standard reported on March 14 that production there is down 65% in the month of March. This is worrying as March tea production makes up 10-15% of the first flush tea that hits the market. Much of this tea is generally “forward contracted” meaning a buyer has already agreed to buy the product in the future at a pre-determined price. Sanjay Bansal, chairman of Ambootia Group, suggested that without a quick change in precipitation, some of those contracts may not be able to be met. Assam is not expressing similar concerns due to the large volume of Assam tea produced annually.