Prolonged dry spell and lack of cash may hamper availability of quality Darjeeling Tea

Darjeeling first flush tea could be scarce this year, since the April or first flush production, rendering the finest quality, has declined to 0.66 million kg from 0.92 million kg during the same month last year, reports Financial Express. This has happened due to a prolonged dry spell. Early plucking, in most cases for want of cash, has also done damage to the quality.

Many tea gardeners may get the tea leaves plucked earlier than due time, impacting the harvest of first flush. A good first flush crop fetches more than 35 per cent of a year’s entire revenue of Darjeeling tea sales. Lower volume and quality is on the cards this year for Darjeeling tea.

Darjeeling first flush plucking generally takes place between March and April though some pluck during February-end as well. Production this season has been 50% lower at 0.66 million kg, compared to the same season in 2019 at 1.28 million kg. Most gardens owners were cash constrained since last year’s first flush was also hit, forcing planters to strike a balance between cash flow and quality.

However, West Bengal’s overall production during April this year was above 18 million kg, compared to a little above 9 million kg during the same month a year ago. Auction prices in both March and April were more for the Jalpaiguri and Dinajpur varieties at Rs 144 a kg and 163 a kg, respectively, than that of the Darjeeling variety at Rs 135 a kg and 157 a kg, respectively, for bought leaf factories.

Assam auction prices in April for bought leaf factories were also higher than March prices at an average of Rs 185 a kg, against an average of Rs 142 a kg. All India auction prices in April went up to an average Rs 167 a kg from an average Rs 137 a kg in March.

The global and domestic market trends for super premium quality can be gauged from the forthcoming auction, though hand-crafted Darjeeling varieties may fetch a much higher value than the auction value since those are privately exported, said a member of the Darjeeling Tea Association.

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