The first flush tea harvest loss could be between 5% and 10%, industry executives said.
Tea producers in the region are worried whether the weather will improve in April for the tea bushes to produce quality teas.
Also a concern for the industry is the surge in Covid-19 cases, as it could impact movement of tea from the tea estates to the auction centres and to different parts of the country if states impose restrictions to check the spread of coronavirus.
The pandemic-induced lockdown last year had impacted tea production for nearly two months.
First flush teas, which are produced in March and April, are exported and are also used to freshen up the tea blends. Rainfall of up to six inches is required for first flush teas, but this year the estates have received only two-three inches of rain during the period.
India produces about 100 million kg of first flush teas every year. It is the world’s largest producer of black tea, with annual production of around 1,390 million kg.
“The weather is very dry in Assam, the biggest tea producing region in the country. In some tea gardens, it has rained 2 -3 inches, while there have been lesser rains in some estates,” said Azam Monem, director of McLeod Russel India.
Monem said, “There is a strange correlation between Holi and first flush teas also. If Holi is delayed, then the first flush is delayed. So, this year Holi has fallen at the end of March. So, we think that it is also one of the reasons why the first flush is delayed and there is no rain.”
Monem said that though rising Covid-19 cases is a matter of concern, the cases are less in rural areas where the demand is higher.
Dry weather may become a major concern for the tea industry as the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has said that summer this year will be more severe in most parts of the country.
According to the IMD, most meteorological sub-divisions and regions along the north, northwest and northeast India, in addition to a few areas in the east, will experience above normal maximum temperatures (seasonal) during March, April and May.
Regions lying along the foothills of the Himalayas, the northeastern and southern states are expected to see above normal minimum temperatures over the next three months.
Vivek Goenka, chairman, Indian Tea Association (ITA), said, “Climate change-induced weather fluctuations is become a worrisome issue for tea industry. It is an agricultural crop and is at the mercy of the weather god. Reports trickling in from some of our association members show that production in certain estates in Assam is going to be even less by 20%. We are hoping that the situation will improve within the next few days and it rains.”
Last year, first flush tea production was affected due to the pandemic induced lockdown. When tea estates reopened in mid-April, it took a month to prune the bushes.