Darjeeling tea, most famous of the Indian varieties, will be available this year, though in limited quantity, despite the prolonged shutdown in the hills
owing to the Gorkhaland
After the gardens reopen, the harvest of the second flush (growing period) can be put for sale and is expected to fetch high prices in international markets.
Owing to the shutdown in the Darjeeling hills
since June 11, it was feared that the Muscatel flush would be unavailable.
Producers suggest the shutdown happened when harvesting of the second flush had started.
“Some plucking had happened just before the shutdown and is of extremely high quality. This produce can be demoisturised and put up for private sale,” a tea estate owner told Business Standard. This tea, which accounts for five per cent of the 2.5-million kg harvested, will be available, most likely through private sales after the gardens become operational.
Trade sources suggest this produce, although now two months old, will be in “extremely high demand from international buyers” owing to the “awfully limited supply” and fetch at least double the usual prices abroad.
“The harvest from the second flush will be of very limited quantity, but at least Darjeeling tea will not go off the shelf or auctions,” a second producer said.
As soon as the estates
reopen, it will take at most five days for the gardens to initiate sales.
Although the brand equity of Darjeeling tea has taken a serious hit on account of the shutdown, with producers getting repeated enquiries from European buyers, the presence of the second flush, even in miniscule quantities, is expected to provide assurance.
Producers are estimated to have taken a hit of at least Rs 220 crore, and this would touch Rs 300 crore if the shutdown prolongs. Also, quality of the autumn flush will be hit, severely impacting its price. In turn, it makes the estates
dependent on the miniscule produce from the second flush.
If a political resolution is worked out in the meeting on September 12 between the West Bengal government and the political parties enforcing the shutdown, the gardens have high chances of reopening.