COLOMBO (REUTERS) - Sri Lanka’s September tea output fell to its lowest level for the month since 2001, industry data showed on Thursday and the State-run Tea Board warned of adverse weather conditions for the fall after a prolonged drought.
Monthly output fell for the fourth straight month, declining 24.9 percent in September to 19.3 million kg. Production in the first nine months of 2018 has fallen 4 percent from the same period last year. “The fall is mainly due to the drought,” Sri Lanka Tea Board Director-General S.A. Siriwardena told Reuters. “But we saw some rain during the last few weeks which will improve production.”
Siriwardena expects full-year production to reach 310 million kg. The Tea Board in August said it may have to downgrade its full-year forecast for tea production after output tumbled 14 percent in that month from a year earlier due to the drought.
Tea is Sri Lanka’s top agricultural export and one of the main foreign currency earners for the US$87 billion economy.
Earnings from tea exports for the first seven months fell 2 percent to US$854.2 million, compared with the same period last year. Sri Lanka’s tea output rose 5 percent to 307.1 million kg last year, recovering from a seven-year low of 292.6 million kg in 2016.
Tea production in 2017 was affected by severe drought followed by flooding and poor application of fertilisers, while a government ban on pesticides and restricted labour added to the sector’s problems.