First shower after five months long dry season has brought delight in the tea arena in Himalayan foothills and Darjeeling hills. Few more like this in coming fortnight may bless the green beverage sector with bumper high value First Flush crop in the new season after dry winter period zero yield phase.
Entire hills and foothills in Terai as well and Dooars region have witnessed scanty to heavy shower in last 24 hours. According to planters in Darjeeling area, though hailstorm associated with the rain has caused minor damage in some areas in the hills, but overall impact of the rain must be considered as very good.
Planters in Terai and Dooars region in foothills are also happy with the shower. “After almost five months long dry spell, the shower was very much needed. We need some more episodes of that during next two weeks,” said K. K. Mintri, veteran planter and Chairman Terai Indian Planters Association.
During December- January, tea plantations undergo major maintenance phase with no plucking of leaves. After this zero yield gap, fresh batch of healthy leaf, known as ‘first flush,’ starts coming from end February to continue till March end. This high quality leaf enjoys highest level of pricing. According to Indian Tea Association statistics, volume wise first flush contributes 20% to national annual production, but accounts for around 35% of value. Naturally, it remains under highest attention of planters.
“Inadequate moisture in air and soil is a major hindrance for growth of fresh leave. Adequate rainfall during this season is too important for proper first flush yield and thus physical as well as economical health of a plantation,” said Dr. S. E. Kabeer, noted tea scientist.
“Without this rain, irrigation would have been only option. But arranging water from dry soil would push up production cost for over 15%. Even then, it can never substitute natural rainfall,” said Sujit Seal, senior planter from foothills.
However, according to planters, few more spells of this rain during next two weeks can give adequate nourishment of the hungry bushes and can cause very high level of output bringing bright return for entire industry.