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In Taiwan tea nation, a scramble to adapt to extreme weather

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MEISHAN/TAOYUAN, Taiwan, Oct 14 (Reuters) – Chien Shun-yih seems to be out over his withering tea fields in Taiwan’s picturesque southern Meishan township and lets out a sigh.

A once-in-a-century drought final 12 months adopted by torrential rain this 12 months have decimated his crop and left Taiwan’s tea farmers scrambling to adapt to the extreme weather adjustments.

“Climate is the thing we can least control in managing our tea plantation,” the 28-year-old Chien advised Reuters. “We really do rely on the sky to eat.”

(Open https://reut.rs/3aB7uEt in an exterior browser to see a image bundle on Taiwan’s tea business.)

Taiwan’s tea output doesn’t come shut to matching China or India’s, however what it lacks in amount it makes up for in high quality, particularly the excessive mountain premium Oolong selection that Meishan specialises in.

Tea has been grown within the mountains round Meishan because the island was a part of China’s Qing dynasty within the nineteenth century. The business matured and expanded below Japanese imperial rule from 1895-1945.

Chien, who returned to run the household plantation after his father died of most cancers 4 years in the past, is now engaged on coping methods for extreme weather, together with hacking deep into the undergrowth to search for swimming pools to pipe water to the fields.

Lin Shiou-ruei, a authorities researcher serving to Meishan’s farmers, mentioned one other downside the extreme weather brings is pests that assault the younger tea buds.

“Pests love the dry and the heat,” she mentioned at her experimental fields in Taoyuan in northern Taiwan. “Previously it wouldn’t be hot until around May to July, but now in April it’s already really hot.”

Lin is working to educate farmers in regards to the pests that proliferate with local weather change, and the way to establish and handle them.

Her boss, senior agronomist Tsai Hsien-tsung, mentioned they started monitoring weather adjustments within the tea nation 4 years in the past and have already seen the crop’s flavour alter with the seasons.

“Temperatures are going up, rainfall is going down. There is less moisture in the air,” he mentioned. “Tea is very sensitive.”

However, whether or not or not what is occurring in Taiwan’s tea nation is instantly associated to local weather change stays an space for debate.

Chen Yung-ming, head of the Climate Change Division at Taiwan’s National Science and Technology Centre for Disaster Reduction, mentioned it was not attainable to blame the drought on local weather change.

“We can only say that the chance of continuous drought will increase,” he mentioned.

Chien estimates he’ll solely harvest 600 kg (1,300 lb) of tea this 12 months, half of final 12 months’s crop, due to the drought and rain, however says he’s decided not to be crushed.

“These trees are what fed me and brought me up. In return I want to try my best to take good care of them too.”

Reporting by Ann Wang; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Karishma Singh

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Tea harvesting staff collect tea leaves on a plantation in Jiayi, Taiwan, May 7, 2021. Staff are paid based on the weight of the tea they collect, however, the drought has caused a decrease in growth which affects the amount of money they can earn per harvest. REUTERS/Ann Wang

Chien Shun-yih, 28, rests after reaching the water tower he built in the middle of the forest in Jiayi, Taiwan, September 7, 2021.  Chien, who returned to run the family tea plantation after his father died three years ago, is now working on coping strategies for extreme weather, including having to hack deep into the undergrowth looking for pools to pipe water to their fields.

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