Your cuppa could cost a lot more as weather-battered tea harvests hit UK supplies

Teenager maker a cup of tea at home in the kitchen
-Credit: (Image: Getty)


The beloved British morning cup of tea is at risk, with prices predicted to skyrocket due to failed harvests and extreme weather conditions in India. The country's tea production has been severely impacted by heatwaves followed by flooding, particularly in the Assam region.

In May, India's tea output plummeted over 30 percent from the previous year to 90.92 million kg, marking the lowest for that month in over a decade. The Tea Board of India has warned that its production and exports to the UK and Egypt are likely to significantly decrease.

This could result in a 20 percent price hike on the shelves or a reduction in the weight of tea put into a teabag, a tactic known as shrinkflation used by manufacturers. Extreme weather events are hurting tea production.

Excessive heat in May, followed by ongoing flooding in Assam, are reducing output. Harvests have also been further reduced due to a government decision last December to ban the use of 20 pesticides.

Man holding cup of tea
India's tea output plummeted over 30 percent from the previous year -Credit:Getty

Over two million people have been affected by severe river flooding in July in Assam, which accounts for more than half of India's tea output. According to data compiled by the Tea Board, average tea prices surged to 217.53 rupees (£2.03) per kg in the last week of June, marking a near 20 percent increase from a year earlier.

Compared to last year, a small box of tea bags has already seen an 11 percent price hike, as per data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Between May 2023 and May 2024, the price shot up from £2.38 to £2.64. Marco Forgione, from the Institute of Export and International Trade, commented: "The tranquility of our tea supply and demand has been disrupted by recent upheavals, which has resulted in a surge in prices.

"These disruptions have rippled throughout the global supply chain, adding to price pressures, shrinkflation and availability issues, all of which put further pressure on consumers' already stretched purses and complicating businesses' supply chains."

Man making cup of tea
Compared to last year, a small box of tea bags has already seen an 11 percent price hike -Credit:Getty

Nagesh Manepalli, consulting director at FutureBridge, told Just Drinks that average global tea prices have rocketed by 50 percent in the last year. He stated: "It's a massive increase across the sector and it is the major challenge in the industry right now."

Tea, being the second-most-consumed drink globally after water, saw some 6.4 million tonnes consumed worldwide in 2021, with around 13 million people employed in the sector, nine million of which are believed to be smallholder farmers. Earlier this year, attacks by the Yemeni Houthis in the Red Sea threw traditional supply chains from the Far East to the UK into chaos.

The tea industry is currently facing a fertiliser shortage headache, as supplies from Russia and Ukraine, two of the world's largest producers, have been disrupted. Debarnik Biswas, hot drinks lead analyst at GlobalData, commented: "Low-income developing tea-producing countries that rely on the tea sector for employment and export revenue have been somewhat affected by fertiliser shortages and increased prices, logistical bottlenecks and higher production costs."

He also highlighted the impact of climate issues: "In some of the largest producing countries of tea such as Indonesia, Vietnam, and India, there was a prolonged heatwave that damaged a lot of key crops." Growing tea requires specific conditions, which include cool temperatures, ample sunlight, and adequate rainfall.

Daniel Parr, European R&D team leader for hot drinks at Ecotone which owns tea brands Clipper and Destination spoke to Just Drinks about the challenges faced by tea farmers. He said "Tea farmers are being faced with climate challenges.

"Weather patterns are becoming more extreme and harder to predict, with more incidents of heavy rainfall and flooding."