The disruption of rail and surface transport in Barak Valley caused by relentless rains and landslides has put a screeching halt to the despatch of tea from the area, pushing Assam’s tea industry into a deep crisis.
While railway connectivity to and from the Barak Valley area has been disrupted since mid-May this year, surface transport between the valley and Guwahati has been facing repeated closures due to landslides in the Rathacherra-Sonapur zone of Meghalaya.
The same road was closed again on Wednesday reportedly after a massive landslide caused serious damage at different points on the road. The road connecting Guwahati via Dima Hasao is also in a deplorable condition and reportedly closed for vehicular traffic since Wednesday.
The Tea Association of India on Thursday said the despatch of tea from the Barak Valley tea estates has been stopped, causing crisis of working capital needed for day-to-day expenses of the gardens, including wages and ration for hundreds of its workers.
“Collection and import of essential industrial inputs have come to a halt, stock of industrial inputs in tea factories of Barak Valley are also running out fast,” the association said.
In the Southern region of Assam, Barak Valley comprises of Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi districts. Making up a share of around 6.5 per cent of the total tea production in Assam, the Barak Valley has been recognized as an economically weaker area when compared to the rest of the plantations in Brahmaputra Valley.
Productivity of teas in Barak Valley is about 25-30 per cent less than the average productivity of teas from Brahmaputra Valley.
Due to their geographical location, gardens in Barak Valley have to bear additional costs on transportation of inputs and other tea despatches than estates in the Brahmaputra Valley.
The Tea Association of India said that due to repeated incessant rain in the month of May and June, 2022, coupled with floods in the middle of May, the tea industry suffered substantial crop loss during this peak plucking period.
“The recent drop in price realisation of tea in auction centres, coupled with heavy crop loss during this pick plucking season, stoppage of tea despatch due to road closure has compounded the problems of tea industry of Barak Valley area, putting a question mark on its sustainability,” it said.
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