The Effect of Global Warming in the Green Tea Industry, Part II
Tea farmers in Uji, Japan have noted how the microclimatic changes in the area have affected their farming practices. These certainly have trickled down to the tea economy in the area, and to understand exactly how, it’s better to take a dive into the role that tea farming plays in Uji’s economy and society.
Kyoto, the prefecture that Uji belongs to, is nearly synonymous with high-quality tea in Japan, adding to the acclaim is the matcha it produces, which is accepted as the benchmark for the highest quality matcha green tea in the country. And since Japan’s matcha is known as the finest in the world, Uji is up on a very high pedestal.
For the tea farmers in Uji, the biggest worry is not the quality of their tea, but the economic challenges they encounter.
The foremost problem is that it’s increasingly to support the financial condition of their household only with tea cultivation.
In a study that sought to find how tea farmers were affected by climate change, 77% of the respondents expressed apparent pressures in their financial condition however the more daunting answers came from the 23% who said that it is not possible to support their household with only tea cultivation, therefore these farmers also produce and distribute their own tea products.
Despite knowing the long-term effects of climate change, not a lot of them had an interest in investing countermeasures to protect their tea plantations due to financial constraints.
Other than the present economic issues, the societal outlook adds another layer to the difficulties of the tea farming industry, that is the future of tea farming in Uji.
While tea farmers are aging, their children who they hoped to inherit the business are not interested in tea. And even if young tea farmers enter the industry, there is a steep learning curve to understand the intricate and complex traditional process in tea cultivation, adding another hurdle for any successor to a tea plantation. The need for young farmers is urgent to sustain Uji’s prominence as a matcha green tea growing region.
The future of Uji’s tea relies on solving these crucial problems.
Climate change is already affecting the region’s tea so how the tea farmers respond to a problem that will only get worse will tell how further on their culture of tea growing will continue. If they fail to address these issues, it is very possible that the quality of matcha green tea in Uji will decline and eventually disappear, and worse, the collapse of the community built upon a decades-long tradition of tea.
What is happening in Uji right now and how it will be in the future is representative of the many tea-centered economies in other parts of the world. The further question is, what are the steps global agricultural governing bodies have taken to stabilize the tea industry amidst the challenges of global warming?