Sunday, July 20, 2008

Tea picker shortage in China


In the past few months of Spring production period, there was a shortage for tea pickers. Many crops were delayed and reduced in quality for that matter, some were abandoned during picking season. The consequences are less high quality teas made it to the market and prices went up as well.

Reasons for the labor shortage can be sum up by a few:
1) Labor cost went up, many farms can not afford to hire sufficient number of tea pickers
2) There are more jobs available due to the Olympic game
3) Bad weather prevented farms from securing labor schedules

7 comments:

Jason Fasi said...

That's hard to believe, given most estimates give China 40-70 million surplus rural laborers. Where did you get this information? Did you check it with other sources?

Imen said...

The keyword is rural. As you know 99% of tea pickers are female, which most are from the same area. For cheap labor work as picking tea, it's not profitable for outside laborers to travel and pay extra for housing cost.

Tea picking isn't science, however require experience for picking the best crops. As tea leaves mature in only a few days, any delay will result in lower graded production.

I should rephrase it as shortage for tea pickers.

Jason Fasi said...

I guess that makes sense. I also started sniffing around, and it seems that most of the surplus labor is in Southwest China, and Guangdong and surrounding provinces have had rural labor shortages, most notably in 2002 and 2004, but they tried to ameliorate the problem with a higher minimum wage.

We import our cheap agricultural labor from Mexico, but where is China going to get its labor once economic conditions make those jobs every laborer's last choice? Russia takes a lot of North Korean laborers, but only on the condition that North Korea gets to supervise and isolate them in camps for all the time they're not working...Vietnam's economy is doing well enough that they have no reason to leave. Maybe Laos? Burma?

Jason Fasi said...

Ah. I forgot. All that recent push that China's made with Africa...imported African labor, perhaps? That's quite the transportation cost, though.

Michel said...

the oloong robot.

Mabye they will call all foreign tea drinkers to have to comply to a teapicking service at least once in a lifetime in order to have the right to drink chinese high quality tea. (like a military service)

Imen said...

Jason,

For long term projects, I can see how importing laborers can work, but for seasonal jobs such as tea harvesting can be costly for both ends.

Michel,

It's a great idea, I'm about to fulfill my due diligence. :P

Stephen said...

Yeah, all my suppliers have been pushing their prices up. Nice to understand why.