Heavy winter rain brings hope of bumper ‘first flush’ crop in Bengal tea belt

Economy


Siliguri: After months long dry spell, heavy showers during last week have brought smiles back in the tea belt in Bengal. Blessed with the winter time rain, the golden beverage arena is expecting year 2121 to be the fourth consecutive one to give high yield of post winter high value ‘first flush‘ tea.

“Winter time dry spell dries up the soil. At this time, rain is a blessing for tea. Good winter shower can give us a favorable first flush yield,” said P K Bhattacharjee. Secretary-General, Tea Association of India. “After the big jolt of lockdown, now the industry is in serious need of high volume and higher level of market realization for survival. Good first flush output can facilitate that,” said many planters.

“The rain has drastically reduced our usual wintertime dependency on artificial irrigation which is a major relief. Irrigation alone eats up over 20% of our entire production cost,” said veteran planter Sujit Seal.

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According to meteorological department record, during 1st to 20th January the tea belt of Bengal in districts of Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri witnessed respectively 36% and 21% lower than normal rainfall. But over 1200% higher than normal showers during the last two days has entirely altered the scenario.

“Beside immediate gain of heavy first flush crop, wintertime rainfall rejuvenates health of moisture loving tea bushes and ensures heavy long term benefit,” said eminent tea scientist Dr. S. E. Kabir.

As the industry practice goes, without any plucking carried out, tea bushes undergo maintenance phase during deep winter in Dec and January. After that, batch of fresh and healthy leaves, known as ‘first flush,’ starts coming from mid February to continue till March end. Volume wise, first flush contributed 20% to national yield. But its value contribution is over 30%. Naturally, first flush remains under deep attention of all in the arena.

West Bengal tea belt comprising Darjeeling hills and plains produces around 400 Million kg of processed tea that is nearly 25% of India’s national yield. The whole region had favorable first flush yield in 2018, 2019 or 2020.



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