Erratic weather to hit second flush Assam tea

Kolkata, June 20 (IANS) Erratic rainfall and extremely high temperature are feared to affect production of the second flush Assam tea crop, while production of Darjeeling tea is expected to witness about 10 percent rise this year despite more rainfall.

Tea is generally harvested in a "first flush" and a "second flush." The first flush is picked during late March. The second flush, harvested towards May end, is generally considered superior to the first flush tea.

Planters in Assam, India's largest tea producing state, said no rain along with very high temperature for the last four days would have "a lot of impact" on second flush tea production as well as quality.

"In some pockets rainfall has been deficient compared to last year, while in some other pockets it has remained at the same level. Distribution of rainfall over Assam's tea growing regions is not satisfactory this time," North Eastern Tea Association (NETA) chairman Bidyananda Barkakoty told IANS.

Assam alone produces about 53 percent of the India's total production of tea, the favourite brew of the country.

"Second flush is the best quality crop. The present adverse weather conditions would affect production as well as the quality," he observed.

Mercury level has been soaring in the state to an unprecedented high for the last couple of days with temperature hovering around 35-38 degrees Celsius.

"Bushes cannot bear that much temperature. So high temperature of more than 35 degrees has affected the crop," he explained.

The second flush accounts for about 20 percent of the total annual crop production in Assam, which produced about 580 million kg of tea last year.

As best quality second flush generally fetches higher value, an adverse impact on the crop and its quality would hit industry profitability.

Five districts of Assam - Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, Sivsagar, Jorhat and Golaghat - produce about 70 percent of the state's total tea production.

But there is some good news. The high quality second flush Darjeeling tea is expected to witness a rise in production this year.

"This year distribution of rain in Darjeeling has been scattered. Now we are witnessing more rains compared to the same period last year. But till now production of second flush crop has been ok," S S Bagaria, chairman of the Darjeeling Tea Association, told IANS.

"Overall quality of the crop is also satisfactory," he averred, adding that this year production of the second flush Darjeeling crop might go up by 10 percent compared to last year.

Last year, Darjeeling produced around two million kg of second flush tea.

The annual production of tea in Darjeeling generally remains close to 8-9 million kg.

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