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Tea Research Body Finds Annual Crop Loss of 147 Million kg from Pest Attacks

Large-scale pest and disease infestations in tea plantations across the country have become worrisome for planters as a result of climate change, with an anticipated annual crop loss of roughly 147 million kg, an industry association said on Saturday.

KJ Staff
Tea Research Body Finds Annual Crop Loss of 147 Million kg from Pest Attacks
Tea Research Body Finds Annual Crop Loss of 147 Million kg from Pest Attacks

According to the Tea Research Association, the annual revenue loss owing to pest infestation in tea plants is Rs 2,865 crore. "Pests and diseases were present previously, but they have gotten worse in recent years."

"Pest attacks in north India were initially limited to a few areas in West Bengal's Dooars and Assam's south bank, but have spread rapidly in other tea-growing regions such as Cachar, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Darjeeling, and Terai over the last two decades," according to TRA secretary Joydeep Phukan.

Apart from thrips, the most common pests in north Indian tea plants are tea mosquito bugs and looper caterpillars. According to the TRA official, there has also been an increase in the incidence and spread of termite infestation in northeast India, which is extending to new locations. The cost of plant protection in tea plantations in northern West Bengal and the country's northeast has risen dramatically over the last two decades, reaching as much as Rs 25,000 to Rs 30,000 per hectare, according to the statement.

According to TRA, this has had a "negative impact on operational viability," resulting in fewer exports and worldwide competitiveness. "The crop loss due to pest infestation in tea is estimated to be 147 million kg per year, and the revenue loss is approximately Rs 2,865 crore per year," Phukan said. The tea business employs pesticides approved by the Central Insecticides Board, as well as Tea Board India recommendations released through its Plant Protection Code and Good Agricultural Practises listed by the TRA.

"Currently, CIBRC (Central Insecticides Board & Registration Committee) has approved only seven pesticides for use in India, making it difficult for tea growers to effectively control tea mosquito bugs and tea loopers," the industry association said. The availability of a "limited range of chemicals has led to resistance build-up in pest populations," according to Phukan, who also noted that "restrictions on the use of pesticides in tea due to revision of MRLs (maximum residue levels) in the EU."

Plant protection scientists at TRA have been testing numerous novel molecules/pesticides against important pests using products accessible from Indian pesticide producers, he claims, and have submitted bio-efficacy and residue studies to the CIB&RC. "Considering the huge crop loss due to the tea mosquito bug and other major pests, the TRA, which is a public authority under the Department of Commerce, has requested the agriculture secretary to kindly intervene for allowing provisional approval under national exigency of some more pesticides for two years for the benefit of tea growers," Phukan added.

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