GUWAHATI, April 8 - Tea bushes in the State are overgrowing due to cessation of activity during the lockdown, leaving the planters worried at the beginning of the production season.
While the government had allowed irrigation and spraying in the tea gardens from March 27, the industry captains have now pleaded to allow them to undertake skiffing in the plantations.
An industry source said the shutdown of the tea estate operations due to the spread of COVID-19 at the beginning of the manufacturing season has virtually disabled the sector as seasonal tea production has ceased.
The closure of the operation has led to overgrowth the tea bushes and the overgrown foliage needs to be skiffed immediately as this is not suitable for production of tea.
Skiffing of tea bushes is a maintenance activity and this operation can be undertaken by deploying a small number of workers while adhering to social distancing and other safety norms, the source said.
�If the tea bushes are not skiffed during the lockdown period, then post resumption of operations, tea estates would require another three weeks to commence production as the fresh leaves take two to three weeks to grow to be ready for harvesting,� the source said.
�The first and the second flush teas, which are harvested at the beginning of the season, comprise the premium quality and loss of production during this period will further aggravate the financial crisis on the tea sector,� the source added.
Meanwhile, the government�s instructions to continue regular payment to the workers, including supply of ration has also put the garden managements in a quandary.
�There is a severe financial scarcity. The March produce could not be sold. Also, old agreements with the banks expired on March 31 and new agreements are made customarily by the garden managements on April 1, which the managements are not able to do due to the lockdown. This has compounded the problems of the gardens,� the source added.