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Frost Hits Tea Plantations in Munnar; February Production Sees a Decline

After a brief respite, high mercury levels have begun to affect tea plantations in Munnar once more. According to tea industry sources, the ongoing frost has caused damage to tea bushes, resulting in crop loss of approximately 550 acres of tea gardens in the Munnar region.

Shivam Dwivedi
Tea auction centres have recently received lower quantities for trading sessions due to decline in production
Tea auction centres have recently received lower quantities for trading sessions due to decline in production

The extent of the loss has yet to be determined, but tea leaves have largely wilted in various states. The lowest temperature of the month, -1°C, was recorded in some areas of Chenduvarai. According to the Upasi Tea Research Foundation, the temperature in Letchmi Estate, Sevenmalai was zero degrees, while it was one degrees in Munnar, Devikulam.

The widening of the temperature range (rising daytime and decreasing nighttime temperatures) was likely to have an impact on thermo-sensitive crops such as tea, which is grown in high temperatures.

Tea auction centres have recently received lower quantities for trading sessions due to decline in production, and auctioneers Forbes, Ewart & Figgis reported that the offered quantities in Kochi, Coimbatore, and Coonoor auctions combined were down by 20% from January to mid-February.

According to YC Stephen, president of the Idukki Small Tea Growers Federation, the situation in Vandiperiyar and Peermedu is worse, with both buds and leaves damaged and drying in the last few days. After being hit early in the New Year by the harsh winter, the situation had returned to normal by mid-January.

He also claimed that tea-producing companies may use the emerging situation to bring tea leaves from other parts of the country, such as Wayanad and Tamil Nadu, to meet their production needs. This would further depress the price of purchased tea leaves in the region, where farmers earn Rs 14.88 per kg. According to him, the frost has been a double whammy for small tea growers, causing crop damage as well as a likely drop in prices.

However, K Dhananjayan, president of the Nilgiris Bought Leaf Tea Manufacturers Association, stated that while there is no frost, the dropping mercury levels at night and extremely hot temperatures during the day have resulted in a lower crop. Due to the lower crop from the gardens, he said factories are only operating twice a week, with an average of 25,000 kg of purchased tea leaves compared to 50,000 kg during normal times.

Nilgris is not currently experiencing frosty conditions. However, they anticipate a 20% decrease in the February crop due to wintery conditions at the end of January, which affected 250 hectares. However, the situation is different in Munnar, where 550 hectares have been affected by extreme climatic conditions. According to UPASI officials, this would reduce production by 25-30% in Munnar alone.

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