In the face of devastating crop losses in excess of an estimated Rs. 15 billion in 2016, the Planters Association of Ceylon (PA) released a statement pleading with the Government to immediately provide a rational and effective solution to the management of chemical weeding in the estate sector in a commercially viable manner.

Since the Government had imposed its blanket ban of glyphosate-based weedicides in May 2015, agricultural productivity – particularly in the estate sector – has been undergoing a slow and steady collapse.

Commenting on the unprecedented dangers facing his industry, PA Media Convener, Roshan Rajadurai warned that if an alternative chemical weedicide capable of matching up to the commercially viability of glyphosate was not presented by the Government on an urgent basis, the quality and productivity of Sri Lankan tea would be irreversibly compromised as a result of deteriorating ground conditions.

“Time and again we have called on the Government to at least give us an alternative to glyphosate and unfortunately there has been no response whatsoever. In the meantime, more estates are becoming overrun with weeds and this will only continue unless the Government responds to reason immediately,” Rajadurai stated.

He added that while the Regional Plantation Companies (RPCs) had long ago adopted comprehensively integrated weed management systems and techniques – comprising biological, cultural, manual and chemical weeding techniques-on par, if not, better than international agricultural and plantation best practices, chemical-based weedicides have remained a necessity throughout.

However, given the extremely stringent controls placed on Sri Lankan tea, which must strict    maintain compliance with FSC, Rainforest Alliance, and ETP standards on labour practices agricultural techniques, fertilizers and chemical usage, Rajadurai firmly reiterated the point that the estate sector exercises extreme caution in the application of such chemicals during all phases of production.

Elaborating on his point, Rajadurai explained how the immediate effects of the Government’s policy to ban glyphosate-based weedicides and its failure to provide any alternative, was ultimately being felt by the estate workers whom such policies were supposedly created to benefit.

“The overgrowth of weeds in the estates only makes it more difficult for our employees to simply traverse one section of the plantation to another, let alone harvest and maintain the tea bushes. Increased undergrowth also created an environment with more snakes and other predators. At every level the glyphosate ban is ban totally counter-productive and we once again call on all policy makers to let sense prevail and a clear, rational alternative be provided immediately,” he stated.