Addressing the Impact of Climate Change on Tea Production

Michael Cameron

I have learned from my English and Irish friends that tea can be considered, well essential. Unfortunately, harsh weather conditions are affecting black tea production around the world. While this could affect what my friends are drinking, there are groups doing their best to make sure their teapot doesn’t go dry.

Climate change and tea production levels go hand in hand like any other crop. Sadly, news out of India points out that Drought like conditions have been leading to decreases anywhere from 11 percent to 35 percent in countries such as Kenya, India and Bangladesh. More tea producers are focusing on ways to combat the problem. This year at the Third Africa Tea Convention and Exhibition the theme was on sustainable farming, specifically sustainable tea production methods.

Recent reports in the Kenya Star indicate that The Kenya Tea Development Agency Management Services (KTDA-MS) has played a major role in helping farmers preserve local biological diversity. Leading the way, they’ve launched a programme that teaches over 560,000 tea growers how to practice sustainable farming. As a result of some of the lessons learned, they’ve improved their farming methods and launched into other projects as a way to hedge against fluctuating tea prices. So far the net result has been an improvement in tea yields. To further enhance their competitiveness within the market, they’re cutting production costs by introducing small hydropower projects and planting 13,000 acres of trees that will not only combat climate change but will also provide a steady source of fuel for their tea production factories.

CNN reports that on top of improved farming techniques, scientists at the Kunming Institute of Botany at the Chinese Academy of Sciences have sequenced the entire tea genome with the goal of potentially creating new varieties of tea that are resistant to environmental pressures and are pest and disease resistant. Tea producers could then widen the genetic diversity of tea plants and produce better qualities of tea with higher yields by using water and nutrients more efficiently.

Climate change is undeniably affecting many industries but those within the tea industry are learning to adapt to their new realities through improved technologies and techniques.