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Prevailing drought pushes low country tea planters from frying pan to fire

28 March 2016 12:00 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Text and pictures by P D de Silva
Declining prices of tea in the world market and abolishing of the fertilizer subsidy and now the prevailing drought have pushed the low country tea planters, specially the small-scale tea planters from the frying pan to fire, and the government should provide them with immediate redress, “ said the President of the Low Country Tea Planters Association (LCTPA) P Nanayakkara addressing the media at the Uranium Hotel, Matara recently.


“The normal mid day temperature in Deniyaya and Morawaka at this time of year should be 26°C, but today it is over 34°C. As a result the harvest of green tea leaves has dropped by almost 90 percent. Tea plants and bushes on more than 5000 acres in the Matara district alone have been destroyed due to the prevailing drought.  If this drought continues for another week or two the result would be disastrous” 
he added.


Vice President of the LCTPA Mahinda Vidanapathirana said that there were 391226 planters who owned 417607 plots of tea which were less than 10 acres in extent. It is the small tea planter that grows almost 59 percent of the total land area under tea. There are almost four million persons in Sri Lanka who are directly or indirectly engaged as small tea planters or their dependents.
The low country tea growing areas in Sri Lanka are in the Rathnapura, Galle, Matara, Kalutara and Hambantota districts. The breakdown of the small tea planters in each district is as follows:
Rathnapura 92038 persons (97984 plots)
Galle 81491 persons (90524 plots)
Matara 63273 persons (66513 plots)
Kalutara 35908 persons (39263 plots)
Hambanthota 2386 persons (2536 plots)
Low country tea fetched as much as Rs 560 per kilogram in 2015 and subsequently when the price fell, the government paid a subsidy to guarantee a price of Rs 80 per kilogram of green tea. But now that has been withdrawn and green tea fetches only Rs 55 to Rs 60 per kilogram which does not cover the cost incurred and now the harvest has fallen by almost 90 percent throttling the small scale 
tea planters.

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