Chinese Tea Producers Hit by the Coronavirus Crisis
The Chinese tea trade was one of the first industries to be hit by the coronavirus crisis, and the effects are still being felt today.
The Covid-19 outbreak, which began in the city of Wuhan in late 2019, caused chaos to the world’s most valuable tea harvest as large parts of China went into lockdown. In China more than 500 million people drink approximately 1.9 million metric tonnes of tea each year, according to the China Tea Marketing Association. The domestic Chinese tea market is valued at $18 billion.
In February 2020, World Tea News reported that the Enshi green tea region was the closest to the epicentre, around 500 kilometres west of Wuhan. Plucking usually begins on March 15 on Wufeng Mountain, but public transport was suspended in January and public gatherings were banned. Fortunately, in rural areas most of the workers live locally, so much of the Chinese tea was still able to be harvested.
However, the coronavirus created two major problems for the Chinese tea industry: tea exports were severely impacted and areas which had not been harvested in the spring were hit by floods during the wet summer season. The floods also damaged tea processing plants, which have been slow to get operational again.
Added to that, one of the largest Chinese tea importers was the United States, but the trade war between the two countries increased tariffs delaying shipments. In the first quarter of 2020, Chinese tea exports plunged by 9.7% year on year, and the second-quarter exports are expected to be worse.
Being the first country to impose lockdowns meant China was also the first to ease its restrictions, so the good news is that the tea industry is slowing getting back on its feet again. Although there are fears of a second wave of coronavirus, everyone is hoping the next harvest will be the first step towards a better time for tea.
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