Saturday, February 16, 2013

Can Yunnan drought justify the Pu-erh price increase?

original article:

Can Yunnan drought justify increased Pu-erh prices in 2013?

Since Autumn 2009, South Western China has seen a lack of precipitation and high temperatures, which created a drought. Nowadays, the situation is still worrying.

Even though the drought has had a severe impact on tea production, despite irregular consumption, the price increase has not impacted the demand. 

According to statistics, Yunnan tea represents 13% of the Chinese tea production, 25 to 30% if we only consider Spring tea. The Yunnan Agricultural Department estimates that, in 2010, the drought reduced production by 50% overall and by about 60% for Spring tea. As a consequence of the drought, the price of tea last year increased by 20% on average, and up to 70% in some villages.

As a result, Pu-erh tea does not even account for 4% of the total Chinese production nowadays, yet, the Pu-erh stock remains large (two thirds of the Pu-erh tea is stored in Dongguan, near Guangzhou), therefore, the drought should not have an influence on the supply.

In China, the consumption should continue to increase and the prices do the same: Pu-erh tea will surely be more expensive in 2013. Still, will the farmers get out of poverty? Will the tea shops make money?  I think the Yunnan drought has been around for years, can it still be used as an argument to justify higher prices?


  1. Thank you for making these original sources accessible to us! There is so much Puer knowledge out there that I cannot read as it is in Chinese... hmph.

    I think the point that stock in Dongguan will keep up supply so prices will not be affected by the drought will not hold true. If you are a producer planning to press Banzhang cakes, you will have to buy Banzhang maocha (at least if you are not faking it). So it does not matter, how many thousands of tongs are available in Dongguan - the supply of fresh maocha will in many areas be far below the factories' demand. So prices of maocha will rise, fresh bings will be sold at higher prices and we will encounter more of the strange phenomenon that new cakes will be offered at prices exceeding those of lesser known bings which have been aged for 10 years or more.

  2. Currently most Chinese tea drinkers pay most attention to how drought may impact puerh market. But I've seen more and more people getting interested in culture and ecosystem through tea drinking. Hopefully more people will pay attention to the drought itself. It has happened in Yunnan most years in recent years and it looks like climate change is happening right now.

  3. Dear Gero, you are right, the price of young tea has a more direct connection to the output of the year, I think in the article, the author was talking about prices of all kinds of Pu-erh. To me, the fact that young tea can be more expensive than some aged tea shows that there is an interest for it, i'm sure many amateurs enjoy young raw pu-erh without looking for further aging, we cannot really say that tea gets better with age, it just gets different.

    Dear Gingko, you make a good point, I would guess that ancient and natural tea gardens are less affected by drought conditions, because they live in a richer environment. Intensive production is often less tolerant to stress than, say, scattered tea trees growing in a forest. Now, is the drought due to the global climate change, a specific human impact or can be explained by the natural variability?