“From nearly 20 lakh kg of leaves during the peak season a few months ago, barely 10 lakh kg reach the public auction centres on a weekly basis now.
The yield has dipped from 750 kg to a mere 300 kg per acre in the last three months,” said B Venugopal, founder of Nilgiris Small Scale Tea Growers Awareness Centre.
“From extremely cold conditions, when the mercury slumped to minus 4 and minus 5 degrees last week, the temperature gradually increased to 7 degree Celsius on Tuesday night. Temperature may rise further in the coming days,” said S Panneerselvam, professor and head of Agro Climate Research Centre at TNAU.
Tea growers rued that much damage has been caused to the plantations. The effect of the cold wave is felt more in Ooty and Coonoor as they are located in high altitudes. How do we tackle the loss? they ask. Though adverse climatic conditions have been a regular affair in the hills, tea growers blamed the failure in implementation of Revenue Insurance Scheme for Plantation Crops (RISPC) formulated by the Commerce and Industry Ministry.
“The insurance scheme for tea plantations did not take off despite its launch in the Nilgiris on a pilot basis in 2016-17. Under the scheme, the premium was worked out in the proportion of 85 per cent by the Central government, 10 per cent by the State government and 5 per cent by the growers. Had it been executed in a full-fledged manner, then it would have resolved several issues of the tea growers at times of distress,” said Venugopal.