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Sri Lanka February tea output falls 19.7 pct yr/yr

COLOMBO, March 17 (Reuters) – Sri Lanka’s tea output fell 19.7 percent in February compared to a year earlier due to drought during the past six months and the lack of fertiliser
use, the state-run Tea Board said on Friday.

Production in the first two months of the year also dropped 17.1 percent compared to the same period last year. "Mainly it is the drought. There is no way of applying
fertilizer with the drought," said Jayantha Edirisinghe, acting director general at Sri Lanka Tea Board.

Sri Lanka is facing its worst drought in 40 years, hurting the island nation’s economy. Tea is Sri Lanka’s top agricultural export and a major foreign currency earner.

Edirisinghe did not give a 2017 output forecast, saying the board needed to study weather patterns to make a prediction.

In 2016, the agriculture sector contracted 4.2 percent from the previous year, when it expanded 4.8 percent. Agriculture accounts for about 8 percent of GDP.

Sri Lanka’s out of tea hit a seven-year low in 2016, falling 11.1 percent in its third straight year of declining production due to adverse weather. 

Tea export volume dropped to a 14-year low in 2016, broker data showed. Export earnings fell 5.3 percent to $1.26 billion in 2016 from $1.33 billion in 2015. Sri Lanka recorded its highest earnings of $1.63 billion in 2014.

Russia was the largest importer of Sri Lankan tea in 2016, followed by Iran and Iraq. Turkey dropped to fourth position in 2016 from second in 2015.

Export volumes to other major buyers such as the United Arab Emirates, Libya, Syria and Kuwait fell significantly last year,
the broker report said.





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