REUTERS: Sri Lanka’s tea output fell 15.3 percent in April from a year earlier, the state-run Tea Board said yesterday, with industry officials attributing the decline to a high base effect and more public holidays this year.
Production in the first four months of the year, however, rose 2.4 percent from the same period last year.
“Production was sharply lower than last year’s exceptional figure and also the unusual occurrence of holidays in the same month which limited output of smallholders and the working days of tea factories,” Anil Cooke, head of Asia Siyaka Commodities, said.
Cooke also said that heavy rains have affected production this month, whereas in April last year output was boosted by rains following a drought.
“Localized flooding has limited the movement of leaf collecting trucks. Poor worker turnout has also restricted productivity in factories that have been already hindered by continual power outages.”
The harvesting of green leaf by smallholders has also declined, he said.
Heavy monsoon rains have killed 12 people, prompting authorities to warn against landslides and floods in low-lying areas after spill gates had to be opened across the Indian Ocean island. Sri Lanka exported 20.8 million kilos of tea in April, up 4 percent from a year earlier. January-April exports rose 1.4 percent from a year ago to 89.7 million kilos, Asia Siyaka commodities said in its weekly tea update.
Tea is Sri Lanka’s top agricultural export and one of the main foreign currency earners for the US$87 billion economy.
Earnings from tea for the first four months totalled US$ 478 million, up from US$ 458.2 million dollars 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 hit in 2016.
Industry officials expect production to reach 320 million kg in 2018 if the weather holds, but a ban on cost-effective weedkillers, disruption to regular agricultural practices and the high cost of fertilisers could affect the outlook for production.
Tea production in 2017 was affected by severe drought followed by flooding, the poor application of fertilisers, a government ban on pesticides and restricted labour.