Kolkata, Dec 6 (IANS) India's tea production is likely to miss the one billion kg mark by a wide margin this year and is likely to settle at around 970 to 975 kg - even lower than last year's 988.32 kg, which was the highest ever.
After missing the one billion kg mark by a whisker, the industry was hoping to meet the record figure in the 2012 calendar year. But that is unlikely, say producers. They fear that production could fall short of last year's output owing to adverse weather conditions.
"There is no way tea production could touch the one billion kg mark this year. Till now we are very much behind last year's output," Indian Tea Association (ITA) vice chairman Arun N. Singh told IANS.
According to him, production is likely to hover around 970 million kg to 975 million kg in 2012 as the output in both northern and southern India is down compared to 2011.
"In Assam, tea production is very much down compared to last year as unfavourable weather hit the output. Production in the Terai and Dooars also remains lower. In southern India too production is down by 5-6 million kg," Singh said.
Bidyananda Barkakoty, chairman of the North Eastern Tea Association (NETA), said production in Assam, the country's largest tea producing state, was likely to be 10 percent lower this year compared to last year's output.
Assam produced 508 million kg in 2011.
"Peculiar weather conditions this year heavily hit tea production in the state. In some months, including October, there was excessive rain while some months saw less rain," Barkakoty said.
Kamal Baheti, chief financial officer of the world's largest tea producer McLeod Russel, also said this year's production of the crop may be a little bit lower than last year.
"I do not see that the production could touch the one billion kg mark this year as weather is not supporting us," Baheti observed.
"Last year, weather was good. But at the end of the year, there was a little bit cold. And heat led the tea production to miss the one billion mark by a whisker. This year output will be at the last year's level or may be a little bit lower," he added.
It is also believed that production of the world-famous Darjeeling tea could see a slight dip this year compared to last year due to irregular weather conditions.
"I think this year's Darjeeling tea output will remain at the same level or could decrease slightly. There is no possibility that it would increase from last year's figure," Darjeeling Tea Association secretary Kaushik Basu said.
In 2011, the production of Darjeeling tea was around 9.2 million kg.
(Mithun Dasgupta can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)