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PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2014 11:22 am 
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Growing India's famed Assam tea now costs more and is becoming increasingly challenging because of changing weather, experts have said. They say coping with the changes in temperature and rainfall have meant added expenses to maintain production. But they cannot raise their tea price because of market competition. India is one of the world's biggest tea producers and more than half of the country's production comes from Assam. Scientists and tea growers in the north-eastern Indian state say temperatures in the region have gone up, dry periods are now longer and rainfall patterns are changing. "Earlier, we had evenly spread rainfall," says Manish Bagaria who has a tea estate in Dibrugarh, northern Assam. "Now, what we have been noticing over the decade is we get a lot of rainfall in one particular month or a couple of months and that erodes the topsoil of the tea garden. "While that already affects our production, the dry spell makes our bushes prone to pests, for which we have to use more pesticides and that means higher costs." Another tea grower in the region, Prabhat Bezboruah, has a similar experience. "There has been a weird resurgence of pests that had been dormant for decades. Now, with the weather changes and the temperature going up, we are seeing all kinds of pest coming back." Some tea garden owners say they can deal with pests for now but the more pressing problem is the changing pattern of rainfall. "Since the dry period is longer and it rains heavily within a short span of time, several large tea gardens have started using irrigation systems to get better yields," says Mr Bagaria. "That is a very expensive way of growing this crop." Experts say Assam's tea gardens once benefitted from the right balance between rainfall and sunlight.

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