The Darjeeling tea industry said on Saturday that it has almost lost its first flush production due to the 21-day lockdown imposed to stop the spread of the coronavirus disease, PTI reported. Darjeeling Tea Association Chairperson Binod Mohan said that the first flush amounts to 20% of the 80-lakh-kg annual production of tea in the hills and is also exportable.
Mohan said the first flush plucking season accounts for revenue that meets half the yearly expenditure, The Times of India reported. “So there will be economic consequences, which may increase depending on how long the lockdown continues,” he said. Presently, the lockdown is supposed to end on April 14, but it is unknown whether it will be extended. The first flush season starts from March and continues till the first week of May.
“We want the government to allow production to start since this is primarily an agricultural activity,” Darjeeling Tea Association former Chairperson Ashok Lohia said.
Indian Tea Exporters’ Association Chairperson Anshuman Kanoria said the industry will find it difficult to move past the current crisis, given that the effects of the 104-day long shutdown in the area in 2017 were still being felt. “Another disruption in supply could be fatal for the variety [Darjeeling tea],” he said.
Atul Asthana, the managing director of India-based tea producing company Goodricke, said the tea industry will lose around Rs 1,500 crore. “Even if the gardens open around April 15, we will lose the entire crop of April,” he said. “Darjeeling will be the worst hit.”
Meanwhile, the Consultative Committee of Plantation Associations, the largest body of tea associations, wrote to the Centre requesting a relief package. Vivek Goenka, the chairperson of the committee, asked the government for an assistance of Rs 1,000 per week for every tea garden worker for three months.
So far, 3,072 cases of the novel coronavirus have been recorded in India, and 75 have died, according to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.