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Sunday October 1st, 2023

Sri Lanka tea output, export earnings could fall 25-pct over fertilizer ban: industry group

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s tea production and export revenues are likely to fall in the coming months due to a fertilizer ban though up to July 2021 volumes and earnings are up compared to 2020, but down from 2019, a industry group has wanred.

Tea production is likely to fall 25 percent within six months, and 40 to 50 percent after that along with quality.

“With tea being a perennial (long-term) crop, the negative effects of insufficient nutrition will be felt throughout the economic lifespan of the plant, which tends to be more than 25 years,” the Planter Association, representing managers of the larger commercial tea farms said.

Up to July 2021 Sri Lanka had earned 766 million dollars from tea exports, with good rains, up 9 percent from 2020 when the country was hit by a drought. But it was down 4 percent from 2019.

“It is unfortunate that that the export earnings generated by the tea industry, which has sustained Sri Lanka for more than a century, is unable to contribute to its fullest potential at a time the country is in dire need of it,” Roshan Rajadurai, spokesman for Sri Lanka’s Planter’s Association representing managers of the top commercial farms said.

“This is an unnecessary opportunity cost for both the industry and the country. Sadly, based on the analysis of credible experts, the worst is yet to come. Long-term reduction of yield from tea plantations is inevitable, unless a solution is provided immediately.”

Sri Lanka had banned agro-chemical as money was printed to maintain a rigid interest rate structure creating a currency crisis under a soft-peg or ‘flexible exchange rate’ while and also to reduce health fallouts.

Sri Lanka’s Government Medical Officer’s Association has said according to the work of Pliny the Elder, a Roman author, ancient inhabitants of the island had lived for 140 years when there were no agro-chemicals.

An earlier ban on glyphosate had hit Ceylon Tea market in Japan where worse alternatives are not allowed.

“Changes in fertilizer and agro-chemicals also alter the properties of the final product that tea consumers associate with Ceylon Tea – including a strong aroma and taste,” the PA warned.

Sri Lanka’s regional plantations companies complied with global standards the group said.

“This is evidenced by the industry’s capability to meet the highly stringent standards of buyer countries, including European countries, in terms of maximum residue limit (MRL), which refers to the highest level of a chemical residue legally allowed in food and beverages,” the PA explained.

“In addition, plantations only make use of inputs approved by the Tea Research Institute (TRI) of Sri Lanka, which follows a highly rigorous testing and approval process in allowing use of agro-chemicals for tea cultivation.

“Similarly, RPCs strictly adhere to the parameters recommended by the TRI for the application of fertiliser.”

The group said organic fertilizer in a large scale was not feasible.

“This is because a significantly greater amount of organic fertilizer needs to be applied when compared with chemical fertilizer and the application process also requires vastly greater use of labour – which is both highly costly and not available sufficiently in Sri Lanka,” the PA said.

“Organic tea is a small and emerging niche within the industry and would not provide sufficient scale to sustain the sector.”

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Sri Lanka National Christian Council opposes Online Safety Bill

ECONOMYNEXT – The National Christian Council of Sri Lanka (NCCSL) in a statement on the Online Safety Bill, said that the existing legal regime is adequate to deal with instances of harmful speech, making it unjustifiable to enact such “stringent laws”.

The Council called upon the government to withdraw the bill immediately.

The body expressed “deep concern” over the proposed bill, detailing its potential to curtail freedom of speech and how, according to the Council, the piece of legislature is inconsistent with the principles of democracy.

“The bill proposes the establishment of an entity named the Online Safety Commission without provisions to guarantee its independence and impartiality,” the statement said.

Chapter 3 imposes restrictions on online communication of certain statements, many of which are vague and overbroad, leaving room for executive control and the curtailing of legitimate criticism and dissent that are basic features of democracy, the statement said.

“The laws granting wide discretion to the executive and its investigative agencies with expansive reach have been misused in the past.”

The Council said that the bill was not drafted with the process of public consultation and discussion, which might have ensured the bill would be less draconian in nature.

“The National Christian Council of Sri Lanka calls upon the government to withdraw this anti-human rights and anti-democratic bill immediately.” (Colombo/Sep30/2023)

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Sri Lanka to implement new vehicle revenue licence issuing system

ECONOMYNEXT – A new system of issuing vehicle licences called eRL 2.0 is to be implemented in 5 provinces, excluding the Western Province, from 3 October onwards.

The new system is to be implemented beginning in the North West, South, North Central, Central and Sabaragamuwa provinces, respectively. The existing vehicle licence issuing system eRL 1.0 will continue to be used in the Western Province.

The issuing of revenue licences islandwide at Department of Motor Traffic head offices and regional branches will be temporarily halted on October 2.

The facility of obtaining vehicle permits online will also be temporarily halted on 6 October till midnight.

The Sri Lanka Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) and the Provincial Motor Traffic Departments are working to modernize the current vehicle revenue license issuance system.

The implementation of the new eRL 2.0 system is expected to be an important step in the digitalisation of Sri Lanka. (Colombo/Sep30/2023)

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Sri Lankan Airlines flights cancelled as aircraft grounded

ECONOMYNEXT – State-run SriLankan Airlines has apologized to passengers who were stranded as multiple aircraft were grounded at the same time.

The airline said it has strict procedures which requires aircraft to be grounded when technical issues are discovered.

“Unfortunately, in this case we suffered a number of groundings at the same time,” the airline said.

“We apologize for the disruption and inconvenience caused and assure all our loyal customers that we are working diligently to minimize such occurrences moving forward.”

The airline said it was booking passengers on other airlines while some have been accommodated at hotels. (Colombo/Sept30/2023)

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