Sri Lanka weedicide ban raises costs, reduces crops of loss-making plantations

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Regional Plantation Companies have said an ‘illogical’ and ‘arbitrary’ government ban on an imported weedicide has raised production costs at a time when they are already suffering heavy losses owing to lower commodity prices.

Both tea and rubber estate fields have become overgrown with weeds after the government’s “arbitrary banning of glyphosate without a suitable alternative,” the Planters’ Association, which represents RPCs, said in a statement.

They described the ban as an “illogical policy decision” and called on the government to provide a solution to the weedicide issue.

“In addition to increasing the cost associated with weeding, this has caused many issues including the inability to apply fertilizer (which would be absorbed by the weeds instead of the tea plants), which in return reduces crop,” the statement said.

The increase of weeds in tea plantations has also resulted in more wasp attacks on workers. 

“The government, in an arbitrary manner, decided to ban glyphosate without any substantial scientific evidence and without providing an alternative – despite it being used by many tea producing nations,” the statement said.

With manual labour being more expensive, the cost of removing weeds has increased.

The RPCs lost Rs5.5 billion from tea and Rs1 billion from rubber in 2015, and from January to June 2016 lost a further Rs2 billion from tea and Rs1 billion from rubber.

“This was as a result of high grown tea prices dipping by Rs66 per kilo from January 2014 to December 2015, while rubber RSS1 prices declined by Rs115 from 2014 to 2015,” the statement said.

“On average, the production cost of one kilo of black tea is in the range of Rs450-470 for RPCs, who are thus experiencing losses of Rs50-70 per kg of tea sold and even higher losses on rubber.”
(COLOMBO, August 26, 2016)
 

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