Citing Fertiliser Shortage: Low Country Tea Small Holders Predict Industry Collapse

By Sulochana Ramiah Mohan | Published: 2:00 AM Dec 2 2021
News Citing Fertiliser Shortage: Low Country Tea Small Holders Predict Industry Collapse

By Sulochana Ramiah Mohan

The Estate Owners Association of Galle and Matara said the Government decision to permit the private sector to purchase  chemical fertiliser will see a 30% cost increase. A spokesman for the Association said that they will run out chemical fertiliser stocks by December 2021 and it could be predicted that by the Sinhala/Tamil New year the low country tea industry would completely collapse. 

“If the Government does not take preventive measures to increase revenue from the tea crop, the low country tea industry will see a natural death before the Sinhala Avurudu 2022,” Member of the Association Ruwan S. Jayasundara said and added that within the next four months concerns relating to the low country tea industry would become a serious issue.

He said 50kg of chemical fertiliser costs Rs 6,500 and four bags were needed per acre. Furthermore, labour charges were beyond the revenue they make.

In 1990, the export portion from low country tea was 25% and it has already come down to 12%, he said.

Jayasundara said small growers who pluck 20kgs per day for 25 days of the month, pluck 400kgs of tea and in their estimation it brings in more foreign currency than what  a migrant worker earns in the Middle East. 

The Association said purchasing fertiliser from the private sector and offering organic fertliser subsidies will be reversed, to give a boost to the low country tea sector. They said the upcountry tea industry was also promised Rs 1000 per day for workers and that request too was in progress in some estates, however the low country estates are grossly neglected. 

“However, the Tea Research Institute had not recommended imported nano nitrogen for the tea sector. Urea has 46%  nitrogen and that is only used for the tea industry.”

Another member of the Association, J. M.Jayanetti on the other hand said the tea industry’s future was bleak. “The plucking cost is more than the income earned and even the fertiliser cost. In the case of chemical fertiliser, we need to spray at least three times a year.”

The tea industry would collapse if this is going to be the future of tea and can predict that this would be so from the way things are going. Jayanetti added that it was not only Galle and Kalura but also small tea holders from Ratnapura, Hambantota, Beliatta and Matara say they will have to fold up in the next four months at the rate things are going.

Currently out of 47 acres 15 acres are tea plantation and the rest are for cinnamon and vegetables, they added.

Wijesundara added that they have been predicting the plight  of the tea industry five years ago and had identified many areas that needed focus. 

“For the last six months we did not have enough chemical fertiliser and some of the small holders have stocked chemical fertiliser but it would run out by end December. This is going to plunge the tea sector down a precipice,” he added.

By Sulochana Ramiah Mohan | Published: 2:00 AM Dec 2 2021

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