The 2021 harvest season - similar to the previous year - was characterised by difficult conditions. As we could see in every news broadcast for weeks, the pandemic situation in India was dramatic. Far away from the metropolises, however, the overall impact was less severe, including in „our“ tea regions Darjeeling and Assam. In the Tonganagaon and Chardwar plantations, from which we obtain our Assam tea, only very few and isolated cases of COVID were recorded. In the tea gardens in Darjeeling the direct consequences of the pandemic were also minor. Moreover, many workers have already been vaccinated. Unlike the previous year, there was no complete lockdown in this second wave of infection, but rather different protective regulations depending on the sector, region and incidence. For the tea gardens this meant that the harvest and operations could be maintained, even if only with 50 percent of the workforce.
Another factor was the climate. The unusual severe drought in the first quarter of 2021 affected the First Flush crop in particular. Trend: increasing. It is already apparent that Darjeeling's tea gardens further south are suffering greatly from the effects of climate change: long periods of drought followed by torrential rains, instead of normal rainfall in monsoon seasons. The more northern regions of Darjeeling, where we source most of our tea, have also been affected, although not as severely as the south. The consequences for the tea harvests are visible: Darjeeling has not been able to reach earlier production levels of 10,000 tonnes for a long time, for 2021 a harvest of 6,900 tonnes is expected. Therefore, we are again unable to offer First Flush Garden Tea this year. We expect to be able to offer the First Flush Blends and all other Darjeeling teas in our range to the usual extent.
Assam, one of the regions with the highest rainfall on earth, also suffered from unusual drought this spring. Instead of the usual six working days, tea could only be picked three days a week because the tea bushes did not have enough new shoots.
Let's take another look at the logistics: The deliveries from India will reach us - and thus our customers - later than usual. The shipping industry in particular was massively affected by the corona waves in Asia. The corona-related closure of the Chinese port of Yantian in June alone, which handles three times the amount of containers per year as the port of Hamburg, had a similarly serious impact as the blockade of the Suez Canal after an accident in March. According to current knowledge, it will take weeks before all the stowed and diverted containers reach their destination.