Assam and Tripura are among India's 14 tea producing states. They annually produce 600 to 620 million kg and 9.5 million kg of tea. India's other three main tea producing states are West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

India produced 1,224.48 million kg of tea in 2013-14 against 1,135.07 million kg in 2012-13.

A senior Tea Board of India official said that the all-India production of tea so far this year compared to the corresponding period of last year is lower due to lower production of tea in Assam.

"From January to April, all India tea production was 144.54 million kg against 161.13 million kg in the same period of last year," the official said, adding that besides less rain, a heat wave also hit the production.

"Due to less and localized rains in Assam, a crop loss of 10 percent is feared in the current year (2014) that would be about a whopping 60 million kg of tea. Fifty percent (around 30 million kg) less production was recorded this year up to the end of April," Bidyananda Barkakoty, chairman of the North Eastern Tea Association (NETA), said.

Over 60 percent of the tea growing areas in Assam do not have proper irrigation facilities. The situation is similar in Tripura.

Demanding a subsidy scheme on irrigation by the Tea Board of India Barkakoty said: "Some scheme ensuring irrigation for all tea estates, specially for the small growers, would boost tea production in northeast India."

Renowned tea expert PK Sarkar said: "Due to unfavourable environment and temperature stress, scorching of tea leaves has been witnessed at many tea estates in northeastern India."

"Many tea estates have stopped plucking and production due to no leaves. The prevailing weather conditions leading to exceptional crop loss and shutting down of manufacturing units on the eve of or during the second flush has happened for the first time in last 25 years," Sarkar said.

Though some rain due to the southwest monsoon has been predicted in the next few days, planters opined that the situation will improve only if the tea growing areas receive at least 200 mm of rainfall, along with lowering of temperatures and proper distribution of rainfall.

"A joint strategy must be evolved by the Tea Board, state and central governments for the survival and development of the tea sector in the industry-starved northeastern region," said Sarkar, who is also secretary of the Tea Association of India (Tripura).

Tea productivity is around 1,700 kg per hectare in India, with Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala accounting for 98 percent of the output.

India is the second largest producer of tea after China and the largest consumer of black tea in the world.


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