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Smiles are back on the faces of Darjeeling tea planters

DARJEELING : After a dry spell of more than two months, Darjeeling has received rains in last 48 hours raising hope for a good second flush tea production. The premium first flush production that earns maximum revenue for the planters suffered this year due to the dry spell. Ashok Lohia, chairman, Chamong Tee said: "In last 48 hours, there has been some rains in the hills which indicates that weather is improving in  the area. But the rains have been sporadic with some tea estates receiving rain. There should be more rain to provide enough moisture to the tea bushes. But we are happy that rains have arrived and we are keeping our fingers crossed." Chamong Tee is the largest Darjeeling tea producer. In fact, rainfall in the area has been significantly lower since November last year. 

This has resulted in stress condition and very less growth of the plants," said SS Bagaria , chairman, Darjeeling Tea  Association.The industry had faced the similar situation in 1988 when there was hardly any rainfall in April. He said that there should be continuous rains for 3-4 days in a week to provide enough moisture to the bushes. Darjeeling tea has four harvest seasons or flushes - first, second, monsoon and autumn. First flush is harvested from mid February till April end whilst second flush is from mid May till end June. The first and the second flush teas are mainly exported to EU and Japan.

 Lohia said that till April 20 the tea estates had received 50% less rainfall compared to last year. "We now need intermittent rains every week. For producing good quality second flush tea we need bright sunny mornings with rain bearing clouds in the evening followed by a shower at night." Darjeeling produces 8 to 9 million kg of tea annually of which nearly 60% is exported. At present, there are 87 tea gardens in the Darjeeling with 17,500 hectares of land under tea cultivation . The Darjeeling tea industry has a workforce of 55,000 permanent employees and 16,000 temporary workers. Lohia said that there is enough demand for Darjeeling tea in the overseas market. But the fluctuation in exchange rate is not benefiting the industry.
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