India Tea Exports Fell 16pct in April

NEW DEHLI, India

Tea production continued to decline across India according to statistics released by the Tea Board of India.

April production was well below past years in Assam, North India and south India. Totals fell to 61 million kilos for the month, down 16.4 from April 2011.

Output across the entire country is off by 24 million kg year to date, according to the India Tea Asociation (ITA).

Domestic demand for tea continues to climb by 3 percent per year leading to the likelihood that the bad start to the year will negatively impact exports. Prices remain firm at local auctions throughout the country which consumes the great majority of tea produced there. Top-tier teas are seeing strong price support, the Coonoor Auction Center reports three consecutive record bids during the past few weeks with prices from INRs 250-290 ($4.38-$5.10) per kilo.

Yields through April were 143.3 million kilos, down 14.4 percent from the previous year. Continued bad weather is to blame with some regions which predict a shortfall of as much as 20 percent compared to 2011 when the nation harvested 988.3 million kg.

Assam is hardest hit with production of 19 million kg through March, compared to 27 million kgs harvested in the first quarter of 2011.

Bidyananda Barkakoty, chairman of the North Eastern Tea Association (NETA) in Assam told The Business Standard that the prolonged drought from October through March cut production 28 percent. “The premium Second Flush (generally from mid-May to June) production has also started with a negative cropping trend and the production remained behind by about 20 percent up to end of May. Even the June crop through mid month was very bad,” he said.

“Drought is a normal, recurrent feature observed in all tea growing zones,” said P. Bordoloi a tea scientist interviewed by the Business Standard It is still largely unpredictable and varies with regard to the time of occurrence, duration intensity, and extent of the area affected from year to year. But a rainfall departure of about 20 per cent from normal during November to March results in severe drought as it happened in the current production year.”

Tea plantation of Assam is also exposed to high temperature during the major growing period of April to October, said Bordoloi.

“The rise of temperature year by year is causing another stress. Leaf temperature of 35C in tea bushes is the upper critical limit for food manufacturing and growth. Above this temperature, production declines sharply and between 39 C and 42 C, there is no net growth. Leaf temperature above 48 C damages leaf tissues which is also experienced in many a times,” he said.

Sources: The Business Standard, Reuters

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