Drought, fertiliser policy hits tea production

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Drought and Sri Lanka’s controversial imported fertiliser policy saw Sri Lanka tea production in March fall by 23.57 per cent (6.79 kilos) to 22.02 million Kgs year on year (YoY), Forbes and Walker Tea Brokers, data released on 27 April showed. Tea, according to latest official data, is Sri Lanka’s third largest foreign exchange earner after remittances and garment exports, though not necessarily in that order. Consequently tea production in the first three months of the year declined by 15.31 per cent (11.41 million Kgs) YoY to 63.10 million Kgs.

With reference to Sri Lanka’s imported fertiliser policy, last April (2021) President Gotabaya Rajapaksa banned imported fertiliser, weedicides, pesticides and fungicides. But, consequent to protests made by farmers, he revoked this ban seven months later in November 2021. However, though the fertiliser import ban was removed in November 2021, the fertiliser subsidy enjoyed by farmers up to April 2021 was not reinstated, other than in the case of imported organic fertiliser.

Sri Lanka traditionally imports US$ 400 million worth of chemical fertiliser annually, while annual tea exports alone rake in three times that number, a sum of $ 1,200 million ($ 1.2 billion) in export earnings. (PA)