Assam tea industry battles slowdown

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Guwahati, Mar 9 (ANI): Unfavorable weather conditions for tea plantations coupled with global slowdown have badly affected tea exports of Assam.

India, the second-largest tea producer in the world experienced a slump by 25 per cent in January 2009.

Indranil Sharma, a tea garden owner in Guwahati said that apart from the slowdown in exports, even the weather is playing havoc this season.

Owing to scanty rainfall the soil has literally dried up. Though dry spells are common in Assam, this year the spell is there for a longer period.

"The biggest problem we are facing is that all the water sources have dried up, we are having problem getting water for spraying and we have to collect water from outside source and do the spraying. Spraying process itself is a very costly process and we this year we had a n attack of loopers then we had an attack of holopets now we are expecting with this kind of dry weather rats to come in," said Sharma.

The tea industry depends on exports for its profits since the domestic per capita consumption of tea is not enough to survive on.

"A minimum of 200 million kilograms export of tea is required for the industry to survive. Anything over and above that is good for the survival. And our estimates say that this meltdown would last till 2010. We will feel the pinch till then," said Dipanjal Deka, Secretary, Tea Board of India, Assam Branch.

Officials say that India's tea production in financial year 09, is expected to rise by only two percent to 1,000 million kg on the back of increase in yield from replantation and higher acreage. (ANI)

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