Earnings from tea exportation are expected to see a sharp drop of nearly Rs 40 billion this year owing to adverse weather patterns, the ban on certain widely used weedicides and the lack of quality fertilizer.
Sri Lanka had earned a revenue of USD 1.34 billion through tea exportation last year. However, experts pointed out that productivity had dropped by 15% already this year and would drop further by December this year.
Chairman, Planters’ Association of Ceylon (PAC), Roshan Rajadurai told Nation that the heavy drought during the initial part of the year and the heavy showers and landslides which followed in quick succession had severely affected Sri Lanka’s tea productivity this year.
In addition, he pointed out that the ban of certain popularly used, and according to the planters, highly effective, weedicides had compelled several estates to remove weeds manually, which in turn resulted in the requirement of additional manpower and was also enormously time consuming.
“Therefore, our productivity has dropped by 15% already. Our revenue would drop by 20% or even more by the end of the year,” he added.
Meanwhile, tea exporters also admitted that there had been a drop in the quantity of tea brought in for the weekly auction.
“We used to get around six to seven million kilograms per week until recently. Yet now it has seen a drop to around five million kilograms,” President, Tea Exporters’ Association, Rohan Fernando told Nation.
“The tea prices could go up further which would in turn divert our buyers to other markets. Therefore, we would lose out on a considerable amount of income,” he added.
Meanwhile, the National Federation of Tea Small Holders (NFTSH) whilst highlighting that the lack of quality fertilizer was the primary reason for the said drop in productivity, countered the claim made by the PAC concerning the ban on certain weedicides being one of the main reasons for the decline, adding that if the tea plantation lands and tea estate lands are properly cultivated according to the methodology prescribed by the Tea Research Institute of Sri Lanka (TRISL), and cared for, there would not be a need to use copious amounts of weedicides and nor would there be an undergrowth.
Convener of the NFTSH, Lal Premanath said that the Government’s scrapping of the fertilizer subsidy was the key issue, adding that since January this year, the majority of the lands owned by Tea Small Holders had not had any fertilizer applied.
“A 50 kilogram bag of fertilizer costs a minimum of Rs 2,900. Per acre, one has to use 12 such bags. Fertilizer must be applied every quarter or every four months. By this time, the lands should have had fertilizer applied twice. The Government provides Rs 6,250 per acre for fertilizer per year. This is wholly insufficient. Elsewhere, adverse weather conditions too have played a role in the dip in productivity. Unlike other commercial crops like paddy, weedicides are not heavily used in tea. The TRISL has issued guidelines on how to use weedicides. However, they have not stated much with regard to the varieties of products or which brands are to be used and therefore planters tend to go by the propaganda of the companies selling weedicides, when purchasing weedicides,” he pointed out.