A storm is brewing in cuppa!

Chai par charcha will soon leave a bitter taste to the mouth thanks to the low production of the ‘invigorating’ leaves this year in the tea gardens. Given that scanty rains in the North East have affected production in tea gardens, a storm in the teacup is expected. Industry experts say tea prices could suddenly see a surge of Rs 25 to Rs 30 per kg causing considerable strain on the common man.

The story of price rise doesn’t end here. The price of sugar is also set to rise given that Modi government has decided to raise the import duty on sugar by 40 per cent. Local sugar prices, which had been kept under check due to imports, jumped 1.5 per cent on Monday following the announcement and are likely to rise further if monsoon rains stay subdued as expected in the next few weeks, sugar dealers said.

Key districts of Assam, including Golaghat, Sivasagar, Jorhat, Dibrugarh and Tinsukia, have witnessed considerable drop in tea production. These five districts account for 450 million kgs of the total of 620 million kgs of Assam tea production and 1.2 billion kg of the country’s total production. While the country’s consumption has been growing at an estimated 3 per cent per annum, production has remained constant at 1,100 million kgs. If this continues, over the next five years we shall become net importer of tea. Given the high import duty of 100 per cent, it becomes nonviable to import tea from outside. Industry experts say there is a need to urgently devise a plan and among others suggest Prime Minister’s Office to track tea production so that tea do not become another problem like onion.

While checking with regional tea packet companies operating in different states of India, it was found that there is inadequate stock as well as supply of tea in various markets of India. Monthly Indian domestic consumption is estimated to the tune of 90 to 100 million kgs and in view of growing demand and decline in production owing to inadequate rains in Assam and other parts of North East, the situation is likely to turn tricky, say tea growers and traders.
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