For owners of tea gardens in Assam, like Dulu Hazarika, who owns 26.5 acres of land in Tinsukia district of Assam, the novel coronavirus induced lockdown has been a blessing in disguise.
“I have a bought leaf factory along with my garden. At the beginning of March, the green leaves were fetching somewhere around Rs 16-18 per kg. However, the lockdown led to extensive growth of the bushes. We had to prune the bushes for the second time this year, which coincided with the most productive second flush period. Besides, we had to cut the extra growth of the bushes, which also added to the loss of leaves and the productive period. All these have lowered production substantially. Reduction in production had a reciprocal impact on prices. The pandemic has been a blessing in disguise,” said Hazarika, former secretary of the Small Tea Growers Association, Tinsukia, adding that the green tea leaves are being sold at Rs 48-50 per kg.
According to the report, Assam has about 1.5 lakh small tea growers, who contribute sizeably to the total tea produced in the state. Of which, the Tinsukia district alone has about 20,000 small tea growers, which is the highest in the state, according to Hazarika.
“Along with the pandemic, there were two major factors that affected the Assam's tea industry this year. March and April were excessively hot. During March, the gardens were infested by pests. Right after the hot spell, there were four months of excessive rains, which is also not good for tea plants. There was also successive pruning that hit green leaf production. All these cumulatively have brought down production on one hand, but also led to hike in prices. It is now sold at Rs 54 to 55 per kg in my factory,” said Sunil Chetia, who has been in the business of tea since 1992. The bought leaf factories are in need of quality green leaf. “It’s like a fish market right now,” he added.
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Guwahati Tea Auction is expecting a boom. Small tea growers are also elated due to the fact that this is the highest price that tea has fetched in Assam, the report said.“The boom in prices of green leaf will stay throughout the year and will spill to 2021 too. However, the next year when production increases, the prices may come down to Rs 25, which again shall be higher than the bad days," said Dipanjali Deka, Secretary of Tea Association of India, Guwahati chapter.