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Crisis hits North Bengal tea industry due to heat wave

The tea industry in North Bengal is currently facing significant challenges due to a prolonged heat wave affecting the region. This weather anomaly has led to adverse impacts on tea production, with tea gardens experiencing a drastic reduction in leaf growth.

North Bengal, known for its prolific tea gardens totaling around 500 and producing approximately 640 million kg of tea annually is seeing some of its districts hit by unusually high temperatures. These conditions have caused tea bushes to turn red, halting their growth and potentially leading to a 30-35 percent crop shortage.

Local tea planters, including Satish Mitruka from Siliguri, said that the optimal temperature range for tea cultivation is 28-30 degrees Celsius. Current temperatures surpassing this range are detrimental to the quality of the tea produced. The absence of adequate rainfall has compounded the problem, forcing some growers to implement artificial irrigation systems to maintain their crops.

“Tea is heavily dependent on rainfall. Without it, we face sustainability issues. We’re currently seeing a crop shortage of up to 35 percent, which could rise to 50 percent if these dry conditions persist over the next ten days without rainfall”, Mitruka said.

Another planter, Niraj Poddar said that the best quality tea is usually produced during the first and second flushes in this season, which are now at risk due to the weather conditions.

Professor Partha Pratim Roy from the Geography Department at Siliguri College highlighted the dire need for rain, pointing out the stark contrast in precipitation compared to the previous year.

The India Meteorological Department has issued a red alert, predicting severe heatwave conditions in the area, which are likely to exacerbate the challenges faced by the tea industry in North Bengal. The forecast indicates that these conditions might continue, with higher than normal temperatures expected throughout May.

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Last Updated: 24th May 2024