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Tuesday May 30th, 2023

Heavy rains likely to cut crisis-hit Sri Lanka’s tea production, exports

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka tea industry is expecting a 30 percent production dip this year due to heavy rains in October the country’s tea production area and the export earnings also are likely to reduce, tea brokers said.

The island nation’s tea production is already down in the first nine months of 2022 to 192.37 million kilograms, the lowest in 26 years in the corresponding period, according to the Ceylon Tea Board. The production in the Jan-Sept period is is 18 percent lower than last year.

Industry experts predict that tea production to have dropped by 30% as bad weather aggravated the already existing issues.

“Right now the tea production is down because the fresh leaves don’t flush out when there’s too much rain. So, naturally right now until the rain subsides there will be fewer leaves available for plucking,” Niraj De Mel, Chairman of Sri Lanka Tea told Economy Next last week.

“However the drop of output for the first nine months is a result of so many factors that took place in the last three years.”

Tea is Sri Lanka’s top exports crop which earned $937.1 million foreign exchange revenue in the first nine months of this year and that was 5 percent less than last year.

The export revenue did not fall as much as the production due to better prices for local tea in the global markets. However, analysts say there could be a drop in tea exports if the heavy rains continue throughout this year in the tea production area.

Some tea brokers see the tea production to fall as much as 30 percent by end October this year compared to the same period in 2021.

“By October, we expect a 30% drop in crop. It’s not only because of the weather, but also fertilizer as well,” Zameel Mohammed, the Executive Director at Ceylon Tea Brokers PLC.

But the Tea Board is hopeful the local tea production to flush out “like thunder”, when the rain subsides. However, the North-East Monsoonal rains, which yields the largest amount of rains to the country, are expected later this month.

Heavy rains retards crop growth, limits the movement of leaf collecting trucks, results in poor worker turnout, restricting productivity in factories that have been already hindered by continual power outages..

De Mel said last year’s tea production was helped by optimum rains despite a fertilizer ban.

“In the grand scheme of things I don’t think we can catch up on loss so far and this year will go down as one of the low-cropping years,” De Mel said.

“Hopefully 2023 should look up because of the rain and the fertilizer that is finally getting into plants.” (Colombo/Nov09/2022)

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Sri Lanka cabinet approves President’s proposal to resume Japanese LRT after soared ties 

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Cabinet of Ministers approved a proposal by President Ranil Wickremesinghe to resume the unilaterally cancelled Japan funded Light Rail Transit (LRT), cabinet spokesman said, as the island nation is in the process of mending ties with Tokyo.

However, any such deals are likely to take place after the debt restructuring and Sri Lanka starts to repay its foreign loans to come out of default, analysts say.

Former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa unilaterally cancelled the 1.5 billion US dollar LRT and East Container Terminal (ECT) projects in 2021. Japan agreed to fund the LRT project while it was one of the tripartite members of the ECT project along with India and Sri Lanka.

The abrupt cancellation hit the diplomatic ties between the two countries and Sri Lankan government officials have said Japan had given the project to Sri Lanka at a very lower financing cost.

President Wickremesinghe returned from Japan late last week after having met top officials of the Japanese government including its prime minister.

“In recent history, due to the stopping of several agreements and proposals suddenly, President Wickremesinghe went to Japan after creating the background to clear some of the worries we have,” Cabinet Spokesman Bandula Gunawardena told the weekly media briefing.

“Before he went, he got the approval from the cabinet to resume the discussion on the light railway project. He got the approval from the cabinet to get parliament approval for bilateral agreements signed or any other investments project. Any change or cancellation of a project could be done only with the approval of the parliament.”

Japan has backed Sri Lanka under Wickremesinghe’s presidency after the island nation declared sovereign debt default. (Colombo/May 30/2023)

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Sri Lanka to tighten grip on television with broadcast law

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has formulated a broadcast authority law to regulate electronic media which will be made public soon, Cabinet spokesman Minister Bandula Gunawardana said.

“The draft prepared by a cabinet subcommittee under Justice Minister Wijedasa Rajapaksa has discussed with various parties will be given to all media institutions and broadcast media,” Gunawardana said.

“We do not have to hide or force anyone. A legal framework that can be acceptable to all for all sectors.”

“In a week or two Minister Wijedasa will discuss with state and private stakeholders.”

At the moment Sri Lanka has issued frequencies without conforming to an “international procedures”, he said.

In Sri Lanka television frequencies are issued under a state television act.

Successive administrations in Sri Lanka has since around 1980 mis-used state television duopoly which including for conducting elections according to critics.

Private television as well a raio emerged around the 1990s and has since over shadowed state media.

There have been calls by ruling party politicians from time to time to control private media. There is now calls to control social media.

At a Committee on Public Accounts meeting of the Department of Government Information, ruling coalition legislators called for regulation of television content. (Colombo/May30/2023)

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Sri Lanka rupee at 296.75/297.25 to dollar at open, bond yields steady

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s rupee opened at 297 /297.50 against the US dollar in the spot market on Monday, while bond yields were steady, dealers said.

The rupee closed at 296.75 /297.25 to the US dollar on Monday after opening around 296.50 /297.50 rupees.

A bond maturing on 01.09.2027 was quoted at 26.50/75 percent steady from Friday’s close at 26.50/65 percent.

Sri Lanka’s rupee is appreciating amid negative private credit which has reduced outflows after the central bank hiked rates and stopped printing money. (Colombo/ May 29/2023)

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