ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is aiming to produce 315 million kilos of tea in 2019, up five percent from last year, Minister of Plantation Industries Naveen Dissanayake said.
Tea production had dropped to 303 million kilos in 2018, down one percent from 2017, mainly because of drought and excessive rains at different times of the year and a ban on the glyphosate weedicide, he told a news conference.
Tea plucking had also been interrupted by a temporary go-slow by unionised workers demanding higher pay.
This year, production is expected to recover with more conducive weather, limited relaxation of the weedicide ban so estates can resume its use,and a negotiated deal on a wage hike for workers, Dissanayake said.
Black tea production had fallen to 260 million kilos in 2015 when he became minister of Plantation Industries, after hitting 340 million kilos in 2014, Dissanayake said.
“We want to raise production for which estates need infilling and replanting,” he said.
The ministry will introduce a proposal to the Cabinet of Ministers shortly to get Treasury approval to set up a fund for infilling and replanting.
Sri Lanka Tea Board Chairman Lucille Wijewardena said the answer to the drop-in crop was to infill spaces on estates and replant them with new tea bushes.
“But the growers are not willing since the tea prices are very good now and they don’t want to take even one bush out.
“The regional plantation companies also say the cost is too high but I don’t agree because they can recover the cost in four years. The ills of the tea industry stem from shortage of green leaf.”