Covid threat combined with drought puts India’s tea harvest at risk

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With Covid-19 infection spreading in plantations already plagued by drought and drought, India’s tea harvest is at risk.

According to the local tea association, in Assam, India’s largest tea-producing state, at least 90 tea plantations have reported cases, and there are many declared quarantine areas. The authorities are trying to prevent the virus from spreading to 800 plantations in the state.

About 500 cases have been confirmed, but growers say more tests are needed to find out the true extent of the outbreak.

India is the world’s second-largest tea producer after China, and it competes with countries such as Kenya and Sri Lanka in the export market.

Producers warn that if left unchecked, the epidemic could disrupt the harvest season and push up prices.

“Last year, the tea garden miraculously survived,” said Prabhat Bezboruah, chairman of the Indian Tea Council. “This time… These signs are ominous.”

The outbreak of tea plantations highlights the reach of the second wave in India, which is unwavering.After taking the coronavirus, the coronavirus has spread to remote areas Devastating human casualties In the cities, industrial and economic activities are disrupted.

India reported more than 310,000 new Covid-19 cases on Sunday and more than 4,100 deaths the day before. Experts believe that these figures are underestimated.

Assam and neighboring West Bengal, home to Darjeeling, the famous tea production center, are each reporting their own growth.The two countries recently held Local election The public health expert said that the infection has increased.

Labor groups blamed the so-called narrow working conditions on tea gardens to prevent a surge in cases.

The residential area is “densely populated. Workers are working or migrating in groups, so the possibility of a rapid increase in the number of infections is amazing.” Dhiraj Gowala, president of the Assam Tea Tribe Student Association, wrote in a letter to the local government Tao.

From unstable weather patterns related to climate change to last year’s production ban, the Indian tea industry has been weakened stop few weeks.

The decline in production brought Indian prices to record highs last year, giving Kenya and Sri Lanka an advantage in the export market.

The bar chart of January to March production ('000 tons) shows the production of Indian tea

Ibi Idoniboye, an analyst at the commodity data company Mintec, said that the latest turmoil in plantations in India may create new opportunities for producing countries such as Sri Lanka to sell more products to large consumers such as Russia.

Producers fear that they will face another lost year. Severe droughts in Assam and northeastern India have exacerbated the coronavirus threat, which has caused tea leaves to wither on their bushes.

“You reach into the soil and pick up the dust. Normally, by this time, it will become lumpy and muddy.” Nazrana Ai, who runs a plantation near Dibrugarh, Assam. Nazrana Ahmed said.

Tea trader Van Rees stated that North Indian tea production in March was 47 million kilograms, higher than last year, but still far below the 60 million kilograms harvested in March 2019 in the last “normal” year.

According to data from Mintec, tea auction prices in Kolkata, a major export center, jumped more than 40% in April from the previous month, reaching 287.5 rupees per kilogram.

Vivek Goenka, president of the Indian Tea Association, said that the authorities are setting up vaccination camps to vaccinate plantation workers, but in the severe environment across the country, they are working hard to get the vaccine. Shortage of jabs.

He said: “I hope we can control the situation.” “I’m not saying that it will disappear overnight… It really depends on whether we can control it quickly and quickly.”

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