Here in Australia we are accustomed to weather extremes - and probably no one more, than our farmers. Their present difficulties were highlighted when our Prime Minister visited some of the areas suffering from the present drought. It was ironic that on the first day of his tour the clouds appeared and rain fell but not enough to resolve our local problem. Other parts of the world are also suffering similar situations; areas that we wouldn’t usually associate with drought now seem to be suffering from its devastating effects. Zhejiang Province on China’s east coast happens to be one of these areas, and is one of China’s major tea producing regions.
During the summer months in China, Zhejiang Province was subject to unusually high temperatures, sometimes over 40’C for prolonged periods of time, and severe drought conditions. This has resulted in withered plants and leaves dying off. The Zhejiang Provincial Agricultural Department claim that over 27,000 hectares of tea gardens have been affected. Add to this Yunnan’s ongoing drought issues and you can guess it’s going to have an effect on tea production in China.
At this point we can only wait for news from China to assess the effects these climatic conditions have on the 2014 spring production. The first flush of leaves that appear in spring are the most highly prized and profitable for the growers. These profits are essential to small growers and help with the sustainability of their gardens. As we approach spring in China, some estimate as much as 70% could have been lost off this year’s spring pick. If this happens, it could have a dramatic effect on the prices of Chinese teas, including the famous leaves of Lung Ching (Dragon well) from Hangzhou, Pu-erh from Yunnan and white teas from Anji region. We can only wait and see how it affects the upcoming crops.