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Sri Lanka tea sector face labour issues as Coronavirus bites

ECONOMYNEXT- Sri Lanka tea sector including buyers who process and pack tea for export as well as some factories within isolated areas are finding it difficult to operate at full capacity due to shortages of labour, industry officials said.

“A lot of small buyers are facing a labour issue in the curfew imposed areas,” an official said.

“They are unable to operate since they cannot find labour.”

Exporters who buy tea from auctions have to blend and pack the tea and warehouse it, which involve labour.

Coronavirus had badly hit areas of the capital Colombo which supply labour, while overall curfews also made travelling difficult.

Home deaths have also been reported from areas which supply labour to many industries and services in the capital.

The virus has been found to be highly transmissible but asymptomatic among the younger population.

The tea industry although adopting the e-auction, is still grappling with labour issues since workers are unable to venture out.

“This has affected the larger buyers too who are currently working with limited staff,” a tea broker said.

“The small buyers are facing increased difficulty owing to the lack of facilities to keep their workers standby in house.”

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Brokers said some factories have also had to halt and some plucking had also been disrupted.

In areas like Mathugama areas, plucking had been disrupted.

Coronavirus had also spread upcountry through fish traders and public health officials have quarantined workers.

Curfews in the Western Province were lifted on Monday, but some areas which supply labor, have become Coronavirus hotspots and remain isolated.

Restrictions imposed in some areas in some provinces where pockets of Coronavirus have been found have been lifted after Public Health Inspectors track down contacts.

Local authorities have now been given powers to isolate small areas and then lift them as public health officials complete their work, authorities have said. (Colombo/Nov08/2020)

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