Sri Lanka tea farmers say harvests halved

Dec 17, 2008 (LBO) – Sri Lankan tea growers said their harvests had halved with the collapse in prices at the Colombo auctions, affecting the livelihoods of thousands of small farmers and the local economy.

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Chandrasena Wijesinghe, convenor of the Joint Federation of Tea Small Holders, said they plan to organise protests in all tea growing areas from this week to highlight their plight and the inadequacy of government support.

“This is the worst crisis facing the tea industry – it has collapsed completely,” he told a news conference.

“The main suppliers of raw material – over 300,000 tea smallholders – are in difficulty as they have lost their livelihood.”

He said tea harvests by small farmers had fallen by 50 percent since the crisis began in October and prices at the Colombo auction had also almost halved.

Wijesinghe, a parliamentarian from the leftist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (People’s Liberation Front) who speaks on behalf of tea farmers, said repeated calls for government support had not yielded the desired result.

“We urge the government to protect this vit