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Floods, coronavirus dent India's tea output in first half of 2020

FILE PHOTO: Women carry firewood at a tea estate in Nagaon district, in the northeastern state of Assam, India February 17, 2017. REUTERS/Anuwar Hazarika/File Photo

MUMBAI (Reuters) - India’s tea production in the first half of 2020 fell 26.4% from a year ago to 348.26 million kilograms (kg) as heavy floods and coronavirus movement restrictions curbed output in the main producing region, the state-run Tea Board said in a statement.

Tea growing areas, notably Assam - which accounts for more than half the country’s production - suffered flooding in May, June and July.

Domestic prices have risen to a record high as a result, which may limit exports by the world’s second-biggest producer, potentially enabling Kenya and Sri Lanka to ship more, multiple trade sources said.

In June, India produced 138.52 million kilograms of tea, down 8% from a year ago as plucking was affected by floods in north-eastern state of Assam, the Tea Board said.

Sujit Patra, secretary at Indian Tea Association said a recovery in the crop was unlikely in the second half of the year.

In July, weekly auction prices jumped to a record of 232.60 rupees ($3.12) per kg, up 57% from a year ago, according to the Tea Board.

India’s tea exports in the first five months of 2020 fell 26.6% from a year ago to 74.40 million kilograms, it said.

The country exports CTC (crush-tear-curl) grade mainly to Egypt, Pakistan and the United Kingdom, with the orthodox variety shipped to Iraq, Iran and Russia.

Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore