Sri Lanka tea growers want to slash acreage, boost yields

August 30, 2007 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s tea industry should slash the vast acreages under cultivation by half and improve yields as it was becoming unaffordable to run huge plantations, a top tea plantations company official said Thursday. “No longer can we have huge plantations,” said Dan Seevaratnam, Executive Deputy Chairman of the listed Kahawatte Plantations, part of the MJF Group.

“We need to shrink land under tea cultivation by 40 percent or even 50 percent and increase yields.”

The MJF group is represented throughout the tea value chain from growing to retail marketing with its own Dilmah brand in consumer markets abroad.

Tea bushes in the island, well known for its Ceylon tea, were aging and soil depleted of nutrients after more than a century of cultivation.

Seevaratnam said the majority of the tea bushes were over 60 years old and yields were far lower than other big exporters like India and Kenya.

“Ageing tea bushes are the main reason replanting costs are going through the roof,” he told the Colombo International Tea Convention organized by the Colombo Tea Traders’ Association and the Sri Lanka Tea Board to mark the 140th anniversary of the Ceylon tea industry.

Regional plantations companies fac