GUWAHATI, June 16 � Prolonged drought from mid-October last year and end - March this year, has reduced production of Assam tea in the first flush period. Tea production up to April end was about 28 per cent less than in 2011. The premium second flush production has also started with a negative cropping trend and the production remained behind by about 20 per cent up to end-May. The June crop was also very bad in the initial ten days, said noted consultant tea scientist P Bordoloi.
Bordoloi, who was speaking to The Assam Tribune, said being dependent almost wholly on rain, tea production is controlled by rainfall quantity and distribution.�Persistent rain-less condition causes drought and prolonged drought has proved to be dangerous for tea plantations.
In recent years, it has become almost a phenomenon that in the tea growing areas of Assam 90 per cent to 94 per cent of the total annual rainfall is received during the seven rainy months between April and October. During the remaining five months, between November and March, only about 6 per cent to10 per cent of rainfall is received. This is causing the problem of moisture stress.
Maximum moisture stress was felt in Mangaldai, Borsola, Tezpur, Nagaon and Golaghat circles in the current year, where irrigation is practised but its impact on total production is still meagre.
The drought has taken the highest toll of production in Upper Assam, which is uncharacteristic for the region. Margherita, Doomdooma, Panitola, Tingri, Naharkatia, Dibrugarh and Moran tea circles suffered over 20 per cent loss till end-May, compared to last year.
During this period, tea estates of Doomdooma and Panitola circles were behind in production by almost 30 per cent. Margherita, Tingri and Dibrugarh circles remained 20 per cent behind, while tea estates in Naharkatia and Moran areas were slightly better off with about 10 per cent crop loss. Few tea estates had also been badly hit by hailstorms and one large tea estate of Doomdooma of a well-known tea company is about 50 per cent behind in crop compared to last year.
In tea estates of Sonari and Jorhat, production was not significantly low. The non-irrigated areas of Golaghat tea circle are facing huge loss.
Tea estates of Nagaon, North Lakhimpur, Bishwanath, Tezpur, Borsola and Mangaldai circles suffered badly and crop loss was about 20 per cent up to end-May, compared to last year. Mangaldai circle was the worst hit with about 40 per cent loss, followed by Bishwanath and Tezpur circles.