Sri Lanka tea exports fall sharply

March 5, 2009 (AFP) – Sri Lanka, one of the world’s biggest tea exporters, registered a 30 percent drop in overseas sales in January because of a decline in the crop, the Sri Lanka Tea Board said on Thursday. Growers have also curbed output at the request of the Tea Board to manage high production costs and maintain quality.

The first signs of a drop in the crop were seen in December when output fell by a third to 19.9 million kilos from 29.5 million kilos in the same month a year earlier, Hettiarachchi said.

He expects production to slow down to just over 300 million kilos this year, partly due to high labour and fertiliser prices. Sales from tea shipments fell to 6.9 billion rupees (61.37 million dollars) in January, compared to 9.8 billion rupees in the same period a year earlier, official figures showed.

Volumes of tea exports also fell 25 percent to 17.76 million kilograms (39.07 million pounds) in January, over the same month in 2008, the board said.

“We are reeling from twin effects of lower rainfall and a deliberate effort to curtail our own production. This has hit our exports in terms of volumes and earnings,” Tea Board chairman Lalith Hettiarachchi told AFP.

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