Agri Business

Frost bites tea gardens in Nilgris, Munnar

V Sajeev Kumar Kochi | Updated on January 07, 2019 Published on January 07, 2019

The frost has wreaked havoc on tea plantations in Munnar   -  The Hindu

After an extended drought and devastating floods, it’s now the turn of frost in Munnar. Tea production has been hit. The situation is no different in the Nilgris, which are experiencing severe adverse climatic conditions with temperatures ranging from 0 to minus 3 degrees.

Kanan Devan Hills Plantations Company (KDHP), a plantation major in Munnar, is the worst hit, as the chilly weather has affected tea production on 870 hectares of plantations.

“We have a crop loss of around 0.6 million kg and the revenue loss is estimated to be close to ₹4 crore”, Mathew Abraham, Managing Director, KDHP told BusinessLine.

The estimated loss of green leaf is 26.47 lakh kg, which amounts to a decline in the production of 6.75 lakh kg of black tea. The impact of frost in the whole of 2018 was on 750 hectares. However, this time, the frost has affected more than 800 hectares in the first three days of 2019. How long the weather pattern will continue is unpredictable and if it continues, the impact will be huge, he added.

Frost conditions began on January 2 and still continue. The majority of the company’s tea estates, such as Top Station, Kannimala, Kundala, Madupetty etc are experiencing minus temperatures. At present the weather is that of a typical frost day, which means low morning temperature, a cloudless and windless day with very low humidity levels, he said.

In Nilgris, for the last many days, the temperature in many pockets is minus 2 degrees and resulted in severe crop damage. The crop prospects for the next three months also look bleak, Upasi (United Planters’ Association of Southern India) officials said.

Small tea growers are the worst affected in Nilgris with a 30 per cent crop loss, adds Ramesh Bojarajan, president of Nilgiri Bought Leaf Tea Manufacturers Association. There are around 65,000 small tea growers in the region owning 2-3 acres of tea gardens, supplying 1,000 kg leaves on a daily basis to factories. Their output has now come down to around 700 kg and the average loss is estimated to be ₹5,000/acre, he said.

According to Anil George, Vice President of Tea, Harrisons Malayalam Ltd, the sudden and unprecedented drop in temperatures to -2, -3 degrees has severely affected tea bushes with a crop loss of 500 kg/hectare at Lockhart Tea Plantations.

Revival seen only in March

The frost will have a negative impact on tea production in the coming months and the revival of plants can be expected only by March or April after summer showers. It is also an exclusive period for the production of frost tea, a unique speciality (quality tea) which can be harvested only on a few days in the winter.

Besides Munnar, unusual weather is prevailing in the Central Travancore belt of Vandiperiyar and Peermedu as well as in Wayanad, with the temperature dropping to 10 degrees and below. This will retard the growth of tea, said V Unnikrishnan, Senior Vice-President (Plantations), AV Thomas Group of Companies. Normally December-March is considered to be a drought period and this kind of weather could accelerate the drought conditions.

The ultimate impact of the erratic climatic condition would be a loss in production and productivity. Besides, the emerging situation would create loss of job opportunities. With an impending wage revision is on the anvil, the plantation sector is keeping its fingers crossed to mop up additional revenues to pay the higher wages at a time when weather conditions are playing spoilsport, highly placed sources in the sector said.

“The plantations were just trying to limp back in the midst of the crisis after the monsoon damage and the frost has hit, rubbing salt into a fresh wound”, a source added.

Published on January 07, 2019
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