Tea Productivity In Assam Stagnating

by - 5:44 AM

Assam Tribune Online

In Northeast India, yield of tea has reached a plateau, a book by a former tea scientist of Tocklai Tea Research Institute has said, calling for concerted efforts involving a systematic approach to improve the productivity. Under the best conditions of weather, plant and soil, tea yield in the region has reached a plateau at around 4,000 kg/ha. However, the average yield for the region as a whole is less than half of this quantity, Jogot Chakravartee notes in his recently released book Tea Confidential. Chakravartee said that besides identifying the factors responsible, a comprehensive planning on every aspect of input utilisation, including manpower and financial resources is required to address the problem of the low productivity. According to him, around 45 per cent of the tea growing area is covered by plants which are above 40 years of age. These areas have high vacancies, poor bush frame and low plant population. Moreover, the rate of replantation – 0.52 per cent in Upper Assam and 0.45 per cent in North Bank, is very slow, the book notes. Replanting the old tea sections at regular intervals and rejuvenation of the potentially good old sections with proper consolidation are two major areas advocated by research organisations to Indian tea industry 40 years ago, so that it does not land up in an undesirable state in respect of yield and quality in the long run. The existing status is, however, very dismal. The book, which highlights important areas of research and development (R&D) for long term benefits, also flags the lack of proper adoption of agro-technology, particularly in the areas of pruning, tipping and frame formation of young bushes and balanced manuring as factors affecting the productivity. Underling that pests, particularly helopeltis and looper caterpillar stand as a number one enemy for the crop followed by poor drainage and poor shade, Chakravartee also mentions that routine monitoring of organic matter status and soil pH are often neglected in many estates – two factors which are an important input for soil fertility management. Chakravartee feels that the primary cause of failure to keep up the profitability of the industry in Assam “can be attributed to multifaceted compulsion to opt for shortcuts only to survive the difficult financial conditions at the cost of long term sustenance with high profit.” “In spite of this lacunae in long-term planning by the industry, sale price rise took place in the peak of depressing market for a good product and this single factor had propped up and enthused the industry slowly limping back to profitability in early 2000. Sustainability in profit making is possible by adopting a futuristic plan with serious effort to arrest wasteful expenditure. It is wise to infill the potentially good old sections with vigorous planting materials,” he adds.

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