ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s natural rubber output may drop to 60 million kilograms in 2023, hit by a leaf disease, an industry body has warned, calling for urgent measures help the sector.
“The ongoing Circular Spot Leaf Disease outbreak has taken a toll on rubber production, causing reductions of up to 30 percent in affected areas,” Senaka Alawattegama, Chairman of Sri Lanka’s Planters’ Association representing managers of commercial plantations said at the group’s annual meeting.
“Urgent action is needed to address these critical threats to the industry. This includes continued research to combat circular Spot Leaf Disease support for key reforms outlined in the Rubber Industry’s Master Plan, and research into biological and mechanical methods to enhance productivity.”
In 2023 Sri Lanka’s rubber production is expected to be only 60 million kilograms, a drop of 15 percent from a year earlier.
In 2022 rubber output was estimated to have fallen by about 6 million kilograms or 7.8 percent to 70.9 million kilograms according to central bank data, due to the combined effect of lead disease and a fertilizer ban under then President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
“The impact of fertiliser shortages on immature rubber plantations during 2022 was significant, causing stunted tree growth that causes delays in the tapping stage of plantations and reduces land productivity in the period ahead,” the central bank said in its 2022 annual report.
“Furthermore, the scarcity of agrochemicals resulted in severe propagation of the Pestalotiopsis disease in rubber plantations during the year, affecting around 40,000 hectares of rubber plantations, resulting in a decline in yield ranging from 0-10 per cent in affected rubber plantations.”
In 2021 the rubber trade asked for fungicides, Carbendazim and Hexaconazole and also fertilizer to help the trees recover leaves, warning that the industry could be hit in the short and the long term.
The agro chemical ban was promoted among others by the Government Medical Officers Association and Athuraliye Rathana, a monk in parliament. (Colombo/Sept25/2023)