Sri Lankan plantation firms say tea output up despite less land, workers
ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lankan regional plantations companies (RPCs) said they have maintained adequate replanting rates on tea and rubber estates and increased production despite reductions in the workforce and land under cultivation.
The Planters’ Association, which represents the listed plantations companies, said their lease agreements on government estates had no mandatory annual replanting amount.
“Notwithstanding limitations, constraints and difficulties over the years, RPCs have replanted their required extent very judiciously according to the estate and situation specific requirements of each individual estate and company,” a statement said.
A three per cent replanting rate was a suggestion as result of a discussion with the Tea Research Institute, RPCs and the government, it said.
It noted that the TRI had admitted that given current costs and expected returns, a replanting exercise was not economical and has no justification as an economic investment activity.
RPCs manage not only tea plantations but rubber and oil palm as well.
“In the last 12 years from 2000 to 2012, RPCs have planted 48,086 hectares of rubber which is 98 percent of the total existing rubber extent of both immature and mature rubber,” the statement said.
Close to 20,000 hectares of commercial fuel wood has been planted apart from 7,000 hectare of oil palm along with additional large hectarage of cinnamon, coconut, coffee, fruit, dendro thermal trees, community forestry plots, ornamental trees, valuable timber and other useful tree crops.
The Planters’ Association said the crisis in the tea industry originates from low prices at the auctions and inadequate worker productivity.
RPCs increased crop production in 2014 by 12 percent in comparison with 1992, when the government estates were privatised, despite having a smaller workforce and crop bearing extent.
This demonstrates “greater efficiency and commitment to best practices including good agricultural policy on the part of the RPCs,” they said.
(Colombo/July 07, 2015)