• Tea Biz Podcast | Episode 21

    Hear the Headlines

    | Inflation Dampens Enthusiasm Over Rising Tea Prices
    | India’s Tea Industry Under Duress
    | European Union Grants Rooibos GI Protection

    Tea Price Report

    While lockdowns continue, tea auctions in India resumed last week at all the major centers. In the Nilgiris, discussions on whether bought leaf factories can open are still underway.
    Read more…


    Tea Biz this week travels to Frankfurt Germany to discuss best practices in sustainable wholesale with Jan Holzapfel, owner of Ronnefeldt Tea, a 198-year-old company that is replacing its tea packaging this year with eco-friendly materials, embracing traceability, and reducing emissions by longer air freighting tea.

    … and then to London where Tea Biz Reviewer Kyle Whittington has a single word for INFUSED, a book by Rare Tea Founder Henrietta Lovell that describes her adventures in tea: “Wow,” he writes, “You really feel like you are sitting over a cup of tea with Henrietta as she regales you with her stories, the highs, the lows, and the off on a tangent.”

    Jan-Berend Holzapfel
    Jan-Berend Holzapfel, owners Ronnefeldt Tea

    Sustainable Wholesale

    Sustainable best practices at tea gardens are well established, but the rest of the supply chain offers significant opportunities to protect and conserve resources. Listen to the latest Tea Biz Newsmaker Q|A as Jan-Berend Holzapfel, owner of Germany’s Ronnefeldt Tea, discusses sustainable wholesale.

    Read more…

    Henrietta Lovell
    Rare Tea Lady Henrietta Lovell

    A Book to Re-ignite your Tea Flame

    You really feel like you are sitting over a cup of tea with Henrietta

    By Kyle Whittington | Tea Book Club

    Infused Adventures in Tea

    Wow! What a book! From start to finish Henrietta had me captivated, excited and enthralled by her world. A Tea Book unlike most, this is the very personal story of Henrietta’s adventures with tea in tea and all around tea. From her first fledgling sips out of dainty China Cups at Diana’s House as a child, we are taken along on a ride of reminiscence. With trips to far flung tea fields swathed in mist via the odd lightning strike or two we zip off to tea tastings with chefs at some of the best restaurants in the world, accompanied by her little yellow suitcase and strange meetings on trains. To name to mention but a few of her adventures. 

    Read more…

    Food Inflation
    Food Inflation

    Food Inflation Dampens Enthusiasm Over Rising Tea Prices

    By Dan Bolton

    In the US and Asia, an energetic post-pandemic recovery is underway. Demand is quickly rebounding as consumers spend down their savings and make up for the lost time. Consumers in the largest economies amassed $2.9 trillion in savings since March 2020, according to Bloomberg Economics.

    Now they are eager to spend.

    Retail sales in the US are projected to approach $4.5 trillion in 2021, according to the National Retail Federation. The NRF, which initially estimated 6.5% growth, increased its full-year GDP projection to 7%, the fastest rate in decades. In China, household income grew 13.7% during the first quarter of 2021.

    Widespread inflation is dampening that good news.

    The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reports inflation in member countries is at the highest level since 2008. Globally, food prices rose for the 12th consecutive month in May, according to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization. The FAO’s Food Price Index was 40% higher in May 2021 when compared to May 2020. The Bloomberg Commodity Spot Index, which tracks price changes across a range of metals and agricultural commodities, has jumped roughly 60% in the past 12 months.

    Food prices, including the cost of tea, are rising on demand. Tata Consumer Products, Nestlé and Unilever all announced price increases across their ranges in response to commodity inflation.

    Rooibos plants
    Rooibos Plants, South Africa

    EU Grants Rooibos GI Protection

    The European Union this week awarded Rooibos, which is also known as Red Bush tea, status as a protected geographic indication affording the same protection to products such as champagne and Irish Whiskey.

    The registration allows South Africa’s Rooibos industry to display the EU Seal if the tea consists of 100% Rooibos that is either cultivated or wild-harvested from local municipalities of the Western and North Cape provinces.

    The South African Rooibos Council welcomed the news. Council Chairperson Marin Bergh said that while it is important that nobody else use the name Rooibos “it also gives a certain status about quality, reliability, and sustainability – all those things that go together with a GI.”

    India’s Tea Industry Under Duress

    While the peak of the horrific second wave has passed, India’s tea industry remains under duress as the coronavirus simultaneously strikes down workers, limits plucking and processing, halts inter-district transport, and forces the early-day closure of restaurants and beverage stalls.

    The government estimates more than one million workers, mainly women, are losing productive days and wages due to the pandemic and inclement weather with the arriving monsoons.

    The delivery of 235,000 doses of vaccine this week halted a steep increase in Coronavirus caseloads in Assam’s tea gardens. Daily average infections in June are now 4,000 per week, down from almost 6,000 per week in May. Positivity rates remain high, forcing an extension through June 16 of lockdowns and a daily curfew from 1 pm through 5 am. Shops and restaurants must close by noon and inter-district transport is prohibited. The state reported 450,000 cases and 3,600 deaths. The seven-day average for new cases is 7,400 in West Bengal and 9,000 in Kerala.

    India reported fewer than 100,000 cases for a fifth day and while daily death totals are high at 4,000, this average is expected to decline as the drop in new cases continues. During the peak of the spring infections, from April 1 to May 6, India recorded 926,000 news with a positivity test of 26%. Testing continues at the same pace, but positivity has declined to an average 4%. Active cases are now at 1 million, according to the Union Health Ministry.

    Buyers at auction are finding it difficult to arrange for transport despite the fact tea is listed as an essential commodity. Drivers are in short supply and enforcement of restrictions that prohibit inter-district transport is inconsistent. The immediate impact is a spike in retail prices above records set in 2020. Buyers at auction are spending an average of INRs211 per kilogram in Assam and INRs125 per kilo in Tamil Nadu.

    Biz Insight – There is no slack in demand for tea. Tata Consumer Products reports that revenue from its beverage segment (which includes coffee) grew by 59.6% during the period January-March 2021. Volume was up 23% largely due to an increase in at-home consumption. India’s packaged tea market is estimated at $2.26 billion. An additional $1.3 billion is spent on tea from unbranded suppliers, according to ICICI Securities.

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  • Tea Biz Podcast | Episode 20

    Hear the Headlines

    | Pandemic Powers Organic Sales
    | Tea Cafes Cautiously Re-opening
    | Tata Expands Direct-to-Customer Range
    | Buyers Spend Big at Chinese International Tea Expo

    Seven-minute News Recap

    India Tea Price Watch | Sale 21


    Tea Biz this week travels to Japan where the Japan Tea Central Council and the Global Japanese Tea Association are organizing a Tea Marathon during the Tokyo Olympics so that enthusiasts worldwide can better appreciate the great variety of tea grown there

    … and then onto Vancouver, British Columbia, where Jessica Woollard leads a virtual tour of Chinatown, a Canadian National Historic Site, and the location of the Treasure Green Tea Company and the Chinese Tea Shop ? two of the best places to find authentic Chinese tea

    Japan Tea Maraton
    Discover new teas during the Japan Tea Virtual Marathon from July 23 through Aug. 8

    Japan Tea Marathon

    Virtual tour of 15 tea producing regions tracks Tokyo Olympics

    By Jessica Woollard

    The Japan Tea Marathon is a series of live online events featuring teas from 15 of Japan’s tea-producing regions. Zoom sessions begin July 23 and are held twice daily, concluding Aug. 8. Two hundred competing brewers and 1,000 regular admissions give the entire world of tea an opportunity to cheer their favorite to victory.

    Learn more…

    Simona Suzuki, née Zavadckyte, president of Global Japan Tea Association describes the upcoming marathon.
    Chinese Tea Shop
    The Chinese Tea Shop, Vancouver, BC

    The Charm of Vancouver’s Chinatown

    By Jessica Natale Woollard

    In 1981, Kwok Sun Cheung, an immigrant from Hong Kong, opened the first premium teashop in recent memory in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Canada’s West Coast.

    Catering primarily to immigrants from China, Mr. Cheung chose Vancouver’s Chinatown for the location of his shop. Now a National Historic Site, Vancouver’s Chinatown spans around six blocks and is located a short walk from Vancouver Harbour and the cauldron from the 2010 Winter Olympic games. It is the third-largest Chinatown in North America, after New York and San Francisco.

    Today we are speaking with Olivia Chan, Mr. Cheung’s daughter at the Treasure Green Tea Co. and with Daniel Liu, owner of The Chinese Tea Shop.

    Read more…

    Jessica Natale Woollard takes listeners on a virtual of Vancouver’s Chinatwon

    Tea News you Need to Know

    Pandemic Powers Organic Food Growth
    Pandemic Powers Organic Food Growth

    Pandemic Powers Organic Sales

    By Dan Bolton

    The Organic Trade Association reports that US sales of organic food and beverages set a record in 2020, growing 12.4% to $62 billion. The total includes organic food, which grew by 12.8% to $56.4 billion. Import values for green tea also spiked, increasing 28% compared to 2019. Organically certified foods now account for almost 6% of total US food sales.

    The pandemic caused consumer dollars to shift almost overnight from restaurants and carry-out to groceries, with traditional staples and pantry and freezer items flying off the shelves, according to OTA, “the only thing that constrained growth in the organic food sector was supply.”

    Read more….

    Bettys Harrogate
    Century-old Bettys Harrogate as featured on Extraordinary Places To Eat by BBC Select

    Tea Retailers are Cautiously Re-Opening

    A tearoom in Texas, a tea café in Portland, and the Samovar Tea Lounge in San Francisco are now open for business. In Portland, the menu at the new Smith Teamaker Café features tea as a spice, an ingredient, and a beverage. In Montreal cafes with terraces opened May 28 and sit-down restrictions ended in Britain on June 2. Irish pubs, Dublin bars, and restaurants are open for outdoor dining on June 7. In Montreal the Café Myriade, Café Parvis, and Café Olimpico drew urban street crowds. Quaint tea rooms in small towns, like The Charleston Tea Room in Friendswood, Tex., a city of 39,000 near Houston, are seating guests after a year. Sadly, many did not survive the financial hardship caused by extended lockdowns. In many cases, these shops, like the one in Friendswood, will open with new owners. Möge Tee, a franchise bubble tea venture, will open two shops in New York City. Drive-thru HTeaO announced 11 new ice-tea franchise locations bringing its total to 41.

    Biz Insight – Sit-down restrictions ended in Britain this week, check out the video linked above from the series Extraordinary Places To Eat by BBC Select. The setting is afternoon tea at century-old Bettys Harrogate, one of six tea rooms in Yorkshire, UK.

    Tata Tea 1868
    Package illustrations for the Tata Tea 1868 collection

    Tata Expands Direct-to-Consumer Range

    Tata Consumer Products expanded its successful direct-to-consumer (DTC) range to include specialty coffee this week. The successful April launch of a DTC website featuring “1868 By Tata Tea” reinvigorated the 13-variety luxury tea selection, launched in January 2018 to commemorate the company’s 150th anniversary.  The teas are exclusively available online at www.tatatea1868.com

    Tata’s Puneet Das, president of packaged beverages for India and South Asia, said, “This is our entry into the direct to consumer commerce ecosystem which is a small but emerging space,” adding that “1868 is an example of our continuing investment in our brands as we innovate to create quality and distinctive products for our consumers.”

    Teas in the 1868 collection are sold in premium tins organized by origin and type. The 1868 Darjeeling Rare Wonder is priced at INRs 1,500 (about $20) for 50 grams, the Nilgiri Green Twirl at INRs 500.

    In February 2020 Tata reorganized how it brings its products to market, creating Tata Consumer Products, a Bengaluru-based integrated food, and beverage company that offers tea, coffee, bottled water, salt, pulses, spices, breakfast cereals, snacks, and ready-to-cook mixes.

    Biz Insight – Tata’s new DTC specialty coffee line is called Sonnets. It is sourced from the company’s south India farms. India is mainly an instant coffee filter market, says Tata’s Puneet Das who explains that Sonnets is targeted to QUOTE “a more discerning consumer looking for freshly ground roasted coffee delivered to their doorstep,” he said, adding, “With the prolonged COVID-19 lockdowns, consumers are seeking more coffee drinking occasions at home. This is especially true as cafes and coffee shops have remained off bounds during the pandemic.”

    Hubei Pavilion at China International Tea Expo

    China International Tea Expo

    Live tea expositions, seminars, and tradeshows are returning with vigor in China. The five-day China International Tea Expo (CTE) that opened in Hangzhou on International Tea Day (May 21) drew a crowd of 152,000 mainly domestic tea buyers. In aggregate they spent RMB6.4 billion purchasing 254 million tons of tea, a 14% increase compared to the previous event. The average value of transactions was up 20% to RMB223 million and orders topped 13,000.

    CTE is the largest tea exposition in China. Buyers collectively spent RMB6.4 billion purchasing 254 million tons of tea, a 14% increase compared to the previous event. The average value of transactions was up 20% to RMB223 million and the number of on-site orders topped 13,000. In 2019 there were 10,787 transactions, suggesting pent-up demand.

    The 2019 expo attracted 3,425 foreign buyers from 46 countries. In addition, there were nearly 200 foreign VIPs from 42 countries and international organizations. In 2021 only a few in-country foreign buyers attended as travel restrictions apply.

    Biz Insight – China’s borders remain closed to all but residents of these 23 countries. Travelers must provide proof of receiving a second of two shots at least 14 days prior to entry and they must present two negative tests PCR and antibody tests, taken within 48 hours of travel. Travelers are checked once again on arrival. Anyone failing the test will be isolated at a government facility. All others were quarantined for 14 days, often at home, an approved hotel, or a government facility. In some regions, the requirement is 14+7 (with the last seven days monitored by local community health officials). Entry restrictions are not likely to ease until February 2022 just before the Beijing Winter Olympics. The events are scheduled for February 4-20. Read more…

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  • Tea Biz Podcast | Episode 19

    Hear the Headlines

    | Tea History Collection Unveiled
    | Indian Commodities Logjam
    | THIRST Undertakes a Tea Human Rights Analysis
    | A Series of Major Quakes Rattle Yunnan

    Seven-minute News Recap

    India Tea Price Watch | Sale 19


    Tea Biz this week travels to Nepal to meet Aasha Bhandari the newly named International Trade and Promotion Executive at the Himalayan Tea Producers Cooperative

    …and to the North Carolina campus of Wake Forest University to learn from student William Liu why ancient teas and rituals retain their appeal with young people.

    Nepal Tea Garden
    Nepal is expanding the country’s tea growing regions to produce more specialty loose leaf tea.

    Himalaya Tea Opportunity

    Nepal Increases Production of Quality Specialty Teas

    By Aravinda Anantharaman | Bengaluru

    Nepal’s tea industry reported record sales in 2020. The fabled tea land is growing greater quantities and greater varieties of loose and broken leaf teas thanks to a government-initiated expansion of the industry to high altitude gardens in non-traditional growing areas. Rural agrarian entrepreneurs are redefining offerings for an international market thirsty for the distinct taste of Himalayan grown oolongs, white teas, and premium black whole leaf. In this segment Aasha Bhandari, newly named to promote trade at the Himalayan Tea Producers Cooperative, discusses her plans for HIMCOOP.

    Read more…

    Aasha Bhandari discusses Nepal’s tea industry in transition.
    William Liu
    College sophomore William Liu founded the World Tea Association and To Tea Together podcast.

    Why Ancient Tea Appeals to Young People

    By Dan Bolton

    William Liu is a 20-year-old sophomore at Wake Forest University so inspired by tea that he and his classmates established the World Tea Association on campus and online. The group offers tea discovery and tasting sessions weekly and hosts occasional tea panels with presentations by tea professionals, tea scholars, and tea explorers. The events bring together many who are new to tea, says William “we aim to redefine the tea experience through an interdisciplinary approach and expose the true leaf to a greater audience.”

    In this discussion he describes why tea appeals to young people and explains his view that tea learning is ongoing. “The tea journey has no destination, he says, it involves only intention and lifelong learning.”

    Read more…

    William Liu on advancing our knowledge of the leaf.

    Tea News you Need to Know

    By Dan Bolton

    An extensive private collection of historical tea artifacts and modern facilities for meetings and tea research were unveiled on International Tea Day by Tea Ambassador Mike Bunston, OBE.

    The Tea History Collection, located in Banbury, Oxfordshire in the DCS Group complex, is the inspired work of entrepreneur Denys Shortt, OBE (Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire). The facility, valued at £100,000 ($140,000) is open by appointment to tea-related organizations and academia. It is equipped with a tasting bar, high-speed internet, archive cabinets, a video-conference room and work areas.

    Shortt, who founded DCS in 1994, grew up on a tea estate in Assam. His family worked at gardens there for 20 years before moving to Africa where his father managed the Ikumbi Tea Factory in Thika, Kenya.

    “We do not believe there is anything like this in the world,” says Shortt. “We have items from Plantation House (now demolished) which was where the London Tea Auctions were held.” The collection of more than 500 items includes teas, books,  and sample cabinet with 200 tins containing teas dating to 1904. The collection will be maintained as a non-profit.

    Learn more….

    Commodities Logjam

    Fifty thousand in West Bengal are homeless this week due to a tropical cyclone that halted air traffic and port activity in Calcutta. Every link of India’s tea supply chain is under stress. Restrictions to stop the spread of COVID-19 are once again limiting the number of harvest workers in the gardens and reducing by half staffing at factories processing tea, while simultaneously forcing the cancellation of tea auctions… delaying transport and causing local warehouses to overflow.

    Truckers essential to transporting tea were virtually halted last year and while many delivering to cities face delays due to curfews that prevent unloading at night, local transport is much less problematic in 2021.

    The weak link in the commodities supply chain during the second wave are buyers who cannot easily judge what quantities are required for manufacturers and to meet varying retail demand. For example, Kochi-based spices trader Kishor Shamji told the Hindu Businessline that a lack of buying interest from masala manufacturers in upcountry markets has affected the sales of almost all spices, including pepper, cardamom, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Meanwhile, traders worry that the tea they purchase to send overseas will experience costly shipping fees and delays. Last year’s first wave dealt urban areas the hardest blow but in 2021 it is rural areas that suffer.

    Biz Insight – In India, as in many countries, mandatory lockdowns and health concerns have accelerated sales of tea. A survey of 22,000 rural small market stores known collectively as Kirana revealed a 140% increase in tea sales. Sales of hand sanitizers that appeared near the top of the list last year are flat but sales of soap increased by 50%, according to StoreKing. Pest and mosquito repellent experienced a 200% increase and comfort snacks and biscuits are up 83%.

    Assessing Human Rights in Tea

    THIRST The International Round Table for Sustainable Tea, is launching a three-year program to analyze the root causes of human rights breaches in the tea industry and come up with an action plan for how to solve them.

    Founder Sabita Banerji objects to “rights assessments” which have a negative connotation she favors an “impact analysis.” Banerji calls it a ‘constructive solution-oriented approach’.

    The program will document conditions for workers and farmers and identify problems “but more importantly, what can be done to address these problems,” said Banerji. The first step is to consolidate existing research and then conduct in-depth studies where there are gaps, providing a global picture of the interdependencies of tea.

    Read more on the Tea Biz blog.

    A Series of Major Quakes Rattle Yunnan

    Three major earthquakes and hundreds of aftershocks damaged 14,000 structures, killed three people and seriously injured 28 in Yunnan Province last week. The first in the series struck Dali located near the heart of the tea growing region. That deadly 6.0 magnitude quake on Tuesday was followed Friday by a much stronger 6.4 quake that damaged homes and forced rescuers to pull several people from under debris. Five hours later a 7.4 temblor located in adjacent Yangbi [YANg BY] rattled Yunnan again.

    The steep mountainous region, subject to landslides, is jittery about quakes. In 2008 a 7.9 earthquake centered in Sichuan province killed 87,000 people and left 4.2 million homeless, causing $150 billion in damage.

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    Avoid the chaos of social media and start a conversation that matters. Subtext’s message-based platform lets you privately ask meaningful questions of the tea experts, academics and Tea Biz journalists reporting from the tea lands. You see their responses via SMS texts which are sent direct to your phone. Visit our website and subscribe to Subtext to instantly connect with the most connected people in tea.

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  • Tea Biz Podcast | Episode 18

    Caption: Tea Forest in the Hawaiian sun near the village of Volcano. Courtesy Tea Hawaii/Eva Lee

    Hear the Headlines

    | International Tea Day Celebrations
    | Assam Forbids Tea Workers to Isolate at Home
    | Nepal’s First Flush is Delayed
    | Kagoshima May Soon Outproduce Shizuoka

    Seven-minute News Recap

    India Tea Price Watch | Sale 19


    Tea Biz this week travels to the slopes of the Kilauea Volcano where Tea Hawaii Founder Eva Lee describes the ongoing tea harvest as unusually wet and seven weeks later than normal.

    …and then to Massachusetts to learn from author and historian Chitrita Banerji how a simple beverage transformed Indian culture.

    Tea Hawaii owners Eva Lee and Chiu Leong

    Uniquely Hawaiian

    Constant rains delayed Hawaii’s first flush by several weeks

    By Dan Bolton

    Eva Lee is a pioneer of modern tea cultivation in Hawaii, establishing with her husband, Chiu Leong, a tea garden and nursery in the village of Volcano 20 years ago. The farm supplied growers with hearty cultivars first introduced in 2000 by researchers at the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources. Hawaiian tea is grown on farms producing less than 100 kilos a year. Small amounts of premium tea are exported, but most is purchased by local restaurants and tourists. In this conversation, Lee describes how the “modest but very strong tea industry” adapted during a difficult year. Read more…

    Tea Hawaii co-founder Eva Lee shares details about the 2021 harvest.
    Chitrita Banerji

    Tea is Both Cultural and Personal

    By Aravinda Anantharaman | Bengaluru

    Humans readily adapt to new foods and drink, most with little affect “we make them our own by accepting them and enjoying them” says distinguished food and culture author Chitrita Banerji. But some are transformative: “It’s interesting that a foreign drink brought in by a foreign colonial power became such an important thing. We don’t think of tea as a foreign drink anymore,” she tells Aravinda Anantharaman during this International Tea Day interview.

    Read more…

    Chitrita Banerji on the transformative

    Tea News you Need to Know

    By Dan Bolton

    Villagers have celebrated tea at local festivals that date to millennia. In the past hundred years, regional and national tea celebrations gained momentum — driven primarily by corporate marketers.

    A decade ago, the idea of a global day of recognition with a different message took hold. Joydeep Phukan, who directs the Tocklai Tea Research Institute in Assam, was tasked by the FAO’s Intergovernmental Group on Tea to convince the United Nations General Assembly to focus on producers, creating awareness and appreciation for the small growers responsible for most of the world’s tea. That took five years.

    Then the real work began. In 2019 when he learned of the General Assembly vote in favor of International Tea Day, Phukan challenged the industry: “Now that we have a dedicated day for tea, we need to do interesting things around the day to re-position tea as the most preferred beverage in the world.”

    Today you see that commitment passionately on display. There are virtual festivals, seminars, and academic presentations, an all-day SofaSummit to hear the voices of origin and the YouTube series “Around the World in 80 Teas” a marvelous virtual visit to the tea lands narrated by Will Battle and Dr. Sharon Hall, who directs the UK Tea & Infusions Association. The UN organized a presentation on sustainability and panel discussion. In Argentina, the Misiones tea growers are presenting a Spanish-language tea conference. In Sri Lanka the focus is marketing. In China the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs is hosting the Hangzhou International Tea Industry Expo, the largest face-to-face tea expo in China since the pandemic.  If you love tea please promote and participate in these activities, either live or over the weekend since most are recorded.

    Today is a glorious day, let’s all share in the tea industry’s ten-year overnight success.

    Biz InsightTea Biz presents Behind the Headlines, a 15-minute YouTube presentation by Dan Bolton describing trends that shape today’s news. Available in English and Spanish.

    Assam Forbids Tea Workers to Isolate at Home

    The situation has worsened in Assam to the point that workers who test COVID positive, many of whom are mothers and grandmothers, must quarantine outside their home until they recover. The practice is controversial but necessitated by the fact entire families have perished on the return of infected workers.

    Assam Health Minister Keshab Mahanta announced that

    “In the tea gardens, we have taken a tough stance on isolation of the positive patients. No one will be allowed to avail home isolation in the tea gardens.”

    Workers that do not require hospitalization must remain in COVID Care Centers where they are provided food and medicine. The vaccination rate remains low in part because many are unable to navigate the Co-WIN online registration system. Registration is mandatory for all those 18 years of age and older.

    During the past year Assam counted fewer than 1000 deaths but there were more than 500 cases in Dibrugarh this week. There were more than 6000 cases reported May 19 and the seven day average is more than 5000. Deaths are approaching 2,500.

    India recorded the highest COVID one day fatalities of any country this week. There are now 26 million active cases with almost 300,000 deaths officially recorded, a tally that is likely an undercount.

    Biz Insight – There were 1,851 tea workers who tested positive on 229 tea gardens of Assam last week. There are now 214 COVID Care Centres in operating with more opening this week. There are 850 registered gardens in the state, any that are found to have 20 or more workers test positive are declared a containment zone.

    Nepal First Flush Delayed

    Tea growers in Nepal faced a formidable combination of wet weather, expensive fertilizer, high transport costs, a shortage of labor, infestations of leaf curl and black tip that led to declines of as much as 40% last year compared to 2019.

    In 2021 drought is the big concern.

    Harvest totals or the first flush are half that of 2020. New leaves did not sprout on schedule due to drought conditions that lasted from December until February. The Kathmandu Post writes that unlike last year, the price of CTC (cut, tear, curl) teas are 200 Nepal Rupees per kilo, well below highs of 360 Nepal rupees last year.

    Nepal is also seeing a replay of last year’s Covid-19 crisis. Nepal reported 9,198 new confirmed cases on Monday around 3000% increase from last month. The positivity rate is averaging 45% with 174 deaths per day in a country of around 30 million population.

    Biz Insight – Nepal Tea founder Nishchal Banskota, who manages the family’s Nepal tea garden remotely from New York, writes that “along with the health crisis, the small farmers in the agricultural sector face even longer term impact due to their crops getting wasted due to the lockdowns and lack of market access. The farmers that were just hoping to recoup the losses from last year’s crisis are yet again faced with challenges to produce and sell their crops. The tea farmers find themselves in the same situation where they might not be able to harvest their most productive second flush due to the rise in the cases.” 

    Learn more on the Tea Biz Blog.

    Kagoshima May Soon Outproduce Shizuoka

    Shizuoka, Japan’s picturesque and most productive tea prefecture since 1959, may soon have to relinquish that title to Kagoshima, according to data released by Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Acreage under tea and green leaf output has slowly declined since the 1980s in Shizuoka which produced 25,200 metric tons of unprocessed tea leaves in 2019. The total is 34% of Japan’s tea production. The 2019 crop was valued at ¥ 25.1 billion yen (about $230 million US dollars). Kagoshima growers, who harvested only 2,700 metric tons in 1959, by 2019 were recording ¥ 25.2 billion in sales. The prefecture harvested nearly the same amount of tea on 7,970 hectares, compared to Shizuoka’s 13,700 hectares. The reason is that Kagoshima invested heavily in mechanized harvesting equipment now used on 97.5% of the prefecture’s farms. Due to steeper slopes and smaller plots, only 65.8% of Shizuoka’s tea is mechanically harvested.

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