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Dry spell pushes Tripura tea industry to crisis
Prabir Sil
 AGARTALA, April 24 – The prolonged dry spell is pushing the tea industry towards crisis with tea planters fearing a massive fall in tea production in Tripura.

Around 30 per cent crops have been damaged so far due to the prevailing drought-like situation ringing alarm bells among tea planters though the tea market is gradually gaining momentum at the auction markets.

According to tea planters, this year, the tea market is scaling up as tea prices touched Rs 200-mark per kg at the auction markets. The Laxmi Tea Company Ltd, one of the successful tea companies in the State, has sold a huge quantity of finished tea at a price of Rs 210 per kg at auction market. But still they are scared about the ongoing dry spell. In the last year, the company produced 30 lakh kg finished tea in its manufacturing unit at Manu Valley Tea Estate.

Normally, the State, which produces 95 lakh kg finished tea annually, witnesses showers during March and April bringing ‘new life’ to the tea gardens. In fact, four months – March, April, May and June are considered as peak season for harvesting crops.

“This time, the State has received very less rainfall leading to a severe water scarcity in almost all tea estates in Tripura. Around 30 per cent of the crops have been damaged till April due to the long dry spell”, said PK Sarkar, secretary of Tea Association of India (TAI), Tripura chapter, here today.

Not only new plants, old bushes have got dried up in the wake of the unprecedented dry spell severely affecting the beleaguered tea industry in the State, he said adding that it would be tough for tea planters to recover from the impending loss.

He said most of the tea labourers are facing severe drinking water scarcity as ground water level continues to recede due to the continuous dry spell. Cost of irrigation has increased after hike in the price of diesel as well as electricity tariff affecting the cost of production of finished product.

“Only a good monsoon could compensate the loss suffered by the tea planters during the past two months”, he added. Altogether, the State has 58 tea gardens while around 20,000 families are directly involved in the tea industry.

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