Image courtesy: teabox.com

The tea industry in Assam has estimated a loss of 80 million kgs of tea valued at Rs 1,218 crore due to the lockdown.

The North Eastern Tea Association (NETA) has revealed this on Wednesday in a study report.

NETA adviser Bidyananda Barkakoty said the total estimated crop loss of Assam tea industry due to lockdown is about 80 million kgs.

“As per the Tea Board of India official figures, the annual average price of tea of north India (which includes Assam) at the Indian auctions in 2019 was Rs 152.26 per kg. Therefore, the total revenue loss of Assam tea industry due to lockdown is 80 million kgs with a total value of Rs 1,218 crore,” said Barkakoty.

“We have assessed the revenue loss as realistically as possible based on available official data of Tea Board of India,” he added.

The NETA adviser said that tea plantation in Assam is seasonal in nature. After an unproductive off-season gap of almost three months, the new tea season had barely started around the second week of March.

Barkakoty said that the tea gardens had to close down from March 22 due to COVID-19 related issues and the subsequent countrywide lockdown.

“Therefore, we have lost almost the entire crop of March (2020) which is estimated to be about 30 million kgs. As per Tea Board of India figures, the harvesting of tea in Assam in March 2019 was 4.6 per cent of Assam’s annual production in 2019 (Jan to Dec) which was 715.79 million kgs,” said the report.

The report said that due to prolonged lockdown, about 35 per cent of tea plantations would have to be skiffed (removal of overgrown tea leaves).

“Skiffing operation would add to extra costs and would require two to three weeks for recovery to bring the tea bushes into pluckable condition. Due to this skiffing operation, there would be crop loss in April and May.”

According to the report, in Assam, in the month of April last year (2019), 6.3 per cent of annual crop was harvested.

Considering the fact that the plucking operations would start from April 15 and taking into account the crop loss due to skiffing, the total crop loss for the month of April would be about 30 million kgs.

The NETA report said that skiffed areas would continue to lose crop in May until their full recovery.

The crop of Assam in May last year (2019) was 9.3 per cent of annual crop. The estimated crop loss for May would be about 20 million kgs.

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