Torrential Rains Cut Tea Production

Unrelenting rains have precipitated a crisis in the tea lands of India where 59 have perished.

Flooding in Assam, Meghalaya, Bihar and West Bengal has displaced more than 5 million people. Gurgaon streets were not passable in the Delhi region and Tamil Nadu in the south is braced for flooding as rains in Karnataka brought Bengaluru (Bangalore) to a halt.

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The heaviest rains in 20 years have swollen rivers across northeastern India and flooded several thousand villages, displacing millions.

Assam, the world’s largest tea garden, suffered the greatest harm as the Brahmaputra River and its tributaries burst their banks. Upwards of 3.6 million fled their homes in 28 districts. Home Minister Rajnath Singh, flying over the region in a military helicopter, said “the problem is enormous.”

He told the The Times of India “Just declaring floods a national problem is not the solution. The need of the hour is to find out what measures can prevent such a calamity,” he said.

Thousands of tea gardens are under water and hundreds of factories, many on high ground, are idled due to the disruption. More than 2,100 low-lying villages and almost 100,000 hectares (247,105 acres) of crops have been partially or totally submerged in upper Assam. Bihar reported 26 flood-related deaths as the Mahananda River breeched its banks.

A.N. Singh, CEO of Goodricke Group, said the company’s Leesh River Tea Estate was washed away. He estimated tea production in the Dooars region will drop by 20–25% in July. Tea estates in the Dooars received 40 inches in five days, according to the The Economic Times. Production typically approaches 300 million kilos annually in the Dooars; in July 2015 production reached 24 million kilos.

“Once the floodwaters recede there will be a pest attack, which will affect the leaves,” predicted Singh.

In Darjeeling flooding is expected to decrease the July harvest by 50%, said SS Bagaria, chairman, Darjeeling Tea Association (DTA).

The The Indian Express reported “the overall situation in north Bengal is very bad,” quoting Sujit Patra, joint secretary of the India Tea Association (ITA). Many gardens have been washed away and many bushes remain under water. Gardens owned by Andrew Yule, Goodricke and Luxmi Tea are under as much as 35 inches of water.

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Neighbors assist passengers of a toppled bus in Nepal on roadways flooded by up to 40 inches of rain in five days.

Nine rivers across the country are flowing above danger levels with 3,374 villages evacuated and 150 submerged.

Northeastern India averages about 500 millimeters (20 inches) of rain through July. Rainfall totals already surpassed a 20-year record. To date, rainfall averages are nearing 800 millimeters (31 inches) with rain days exceeding 30 millimeters (1 inch) several times in the past month. India usually experiences monsoon rains from June through September. This is the worst flooding in Assam since 1988.

In Nepal, floods and landslides have killed 90, at a time when millions of Nepalis continue to live in makeshift huts after a 2015 earthquake that killed 9,000.

Sources: The Indian Express, India Today, EWNThe Times of India, The Economic Times

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Dan Bolton

About Dan Bolton

Dan Bolton edits STiR Tea & Coffee Industry International. He was formerly editor and publisher of World Tea News and former editor and publisher of Tea Magazine and former editor-in-chief of Specialty Coffee Retailer. He is a beverage retail consultant and frequent speaker at industry seminars and conferences. His work has appeared in many beverage publications. He was a newspaper reporter and editor for 20 years prior to his career in magazines. Dan is the founding editor of Natural Food magazine and has led six publishing ventures since 1995. He lives in Winnipeg, Canada.