The Effect of Global Warming in the Green Tea Industry, Part III

As an industry that covers three continents - Asia, Africa and South America -  the effects climate-related challenges to the tea growing and cultivation is a global concern.

 

In addition to Japan, a lot of tea-growing countries have reported how global warming adds to the hardships of growing frequency and intensity that are impacting their ability to produce quality tea. 


  • Drought in China leaving low-lying plants covered in dust, blocking crucial sunshine
  • Intense rainfall contributing to the erosion of slopes and loss of plantings in India
  • Unprecedented frost in Rwanda, causing a loss of 70% of leaves
  • Erratic rainfall in Kenya, with drought occurring twice as frequently
  • Higher temperatures in China contributing to increased pest populations

 

The problem is so severe and widespread that during the 2012 Consultation on Climate Change and Its Implication on the World Tea Economy held in Sri Lanka, a Working Group on Climate Change was endorsed. It was tasked to:

 

  • Review concepts and methods of climate change impact assessment and identify climate change databases and models,
  • Evaluate the analyses carried out on the impact of climate change and determine methodologies to measure the impact of climate change on the tea economy;
  • Evaluate suitable technologies that could be adapted for mitigation and adaptation strategies for the tea economy; 
  • Identify/suggest mitigation and adaptation strategies and develop appropriate long-term technologies for mitigation/adaptation.

 

In 2015, they presented their findings, along with a comprehensive list of recommended practices to cope in the coming decades.

 

  • Planting drought and stress-tolerant tea cultivars
  • Diversifying production, including changing low-yielding tea land from tea to other crops that can thrive in poor soil and in tea-growing areas
  • Intercropping tea with other tree crops, such as rubber, and/or other food crops. Shade trees provide the dual benefit of protecting the tea plants As the tree matures, it can be used for fuel to dry the tea. Food crops, on the other hand, provide food and/or income to the farmer. Soil could also be improved by intercropping with nitrogen-fixing crops, such as beans. Non-nitrogen-fixing crops, such as cassava, however, absorb nutrients from the soil and would contribute to soil deterioration
  • Organic cultivation
  • Water conservation through efficient artificial irrigation and drainage systems, as well as water harvesting

 

The final point the report touched on, yet still highly emphasized the importance was community involvement. A bulk of the world’s tea output is still produced by numerous small, family-run farms that need the strong support of the government and the industry.

 

Therefore, awareness creation, public education, information exchange, indigenous and community-based adaptation strategies and new technology extension and crop insurance should be promoted to deal with climate change and extremes.