Tea Mosquito Bug Infestation
India is the world’s second-largest tea producer after China. However, the tea industry in India has been facing a major setback due to the infestation of tea mosquito bugs. These pests, which are a type of mirid bug, feed on the tender tea leaves and cause extensive damage to the tea bushes. This has led to a significant decline in tea production, especially in the Valparai region of Tamil Nadu, where the production has fallen by around 50 percent over a decade.
Impact of Tea Mosquito Bug Infestation
Tea mosquito bug infestation is threatening the very existence of tea plantations and the situation is worsened by the rising cost of inputs and employee wages. For instance, the pest infestation resulted in Valparai tea region witnessing falling in production from 30 million kg in 2009-10 to 16.73 million kg in 2021-22.
Limited Choice of Pesticides
The tea growers in impacted areas are spending around ₹12,000 per hectare on pesticide application each year. However, the control of the pest is poor due to the lack of effective molecules available to control the pest. The problem is further exacerbated by the limited choice of pesticides available to tea growers. The Tea Board has imposed restrictions on the use of certain pesticides after the formation of the Plant Protection Code (PPC) in 2014, with the objective of making Indian tea safer and free of harmful residue. Consequently, only 7 pesticides are approved for use in South India, and planters are unable to implement effective control measures.
Rapid Spread to Higher Elevation Plantations
The tea mosquito bug was once considered a wet weather pest, and was earlier restricted to plantations in low elevations. However, the pest is now spreading rapidly to higher elevation plantations too. The situation has put the tea industry in India at risk, as tea is a major export commodity for the country. Therefore, the government needs to take immediate measures to control the pest infestation and safeguard the tea industry.