Sri Lanka tea exports tumble in February

Minister appoints Dr Swaminathan to IPACSL as Chairperson

April 2, 2009 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s tea exports slid nearly 30 percent in February due to an output slump blamed on a “severe drought,” officials said Thursday. Sri Lanka is one of the world’s biggest tea exporters and the commodity is its largest foreign exchange-earner.

Tea exports fell 29.2 percent to 131.3 million dollars in February, down from the same month a year earlier, the Tea Board said.

In volume terms, exports fell 26 percent to 38.67 million kilos (85.07 million pounds) in February from a year earlier.

“We sold less tea in the international market because a severe drought hit our crop in January and February,” Tea Board chief Lalith Hettiarachchi told AFP.

Production of Sri Lankan tea, popularly known as “Pure Ceylon Tea,” fell 51 percent in February to 12.5 million kilos (27.5 million pounds) from the same month in 2008.

“Production for the month of February was the lowest we have seen in 17 years,” said Dinal Fernando, vice president of the privately-run Asia Siyaka Commodity Brokers.

Fernando forecast 2009 production slowing to just over 300 million kilos (660 million pounds) from a record 318.47 million