Sri Lanka seen losing status as tea exporter

Dec 17, 2009 (LBO) – China has overtaken Sri Lanka as the world’s second largest tea exporter, and the island is in danger of losing its position as a major export origin, the Sri Lanka Tea Board has warned. But China and Vietnam are understood to have maintained their usual black tea production and enjoyed the present price increase with more earnings, the Tea Board said.

The Sri Lankan tea industry’s productivity has remained stagnant with yields barely exceeding 1,400 kilos per hectare, compared with an average yield in India of around 1,800 kilos and Kenya around 2,400 kilos per hectare.

“While all players in the industry, whether state or private, recognizes that re-planting of around 2.5 percent to three percent of the acreage of grown tea is mandatory to increase yields, the present re-planting rate just over 0.5 percent is totally inadequate,” the Tea Board said.

“In-filling is another necessity overlooked in most plantations and estates. Another important factor is to re-plant with new high yielding clones which are also drought resistant.”

It said the island’s tea production appears to have peaked at 320 to 325 million kilos because of lower productivity, aging bushes and inadeq