Darjeeling’s world-famous tea industry, still smarting from the blow to its premium first flush harvest following a drought, is set to suffer a second jolt during the 10-day bandh called by Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) in June.
The bandh between June 12 and 21 is set to coincide with the second flush harvest. GJM president Bimal Gurung said they will extend it to the tea gardens and educational institutes too.
“It is not a matter of 10 days alone, the effect would last a month,” said Sandeep Mukherjee, secretary, Darjeeling Tea Association .
During second flush, tea leaves are plucked once in 4 days.
“If plucking doesn’t take place, the tea becomes unsuitable for manufacture. The shoots grow long and have to be skiffed (a form of cut.) Once skiffing is done the buds too get damaged and leaves don’t grow for many days altogether. The bandh will stop weeding and spraying that will encourage pests,” said Mukerjee.
First flush is plucked from mid March till April end, while second flush is from mid May till end June. The proceeds of first and second flush usually sustain a tea estate throughout the year.
Both the flushes produce premium tea and hence fetch good prices internationally. As much as 70 per cent of Darjeeling tea is exported.
“This year’s production is the lowest in decades. A drop in production may entail cancellation of orders as was in the case of First Flush this year,” said Rajesh Kaushal, general manager, Phuguri Tea Estate.