Sri Lanka lifts ban on tea estates harvesting timber

Jan 31, 2012 (LBO) – A Sri Lanka state decision to allow commercial timber to be harvested will increase the supply of fuel wood for use in tea driers helping cut production costs, an industry body representing private managers said. “We are confident this decision by the government will benefit not only the estate sector but the country as a whole, Lalith Obeyesekere, chairman of the Planters Association, which represents private managers said in a statement.

Plantations industries minister Mahinda Samarasinghe had intervened to lift the ban he said.

Sri Lanka’s so-called regional plantation companies (RPCs) formerly state-run tea and rubber plantation now leased to the private firms, come under various state restrictions.

The plantations, originally grown by mainly British farmers, were expropriated in the 1970s and driven to losses by the state two decades later.

In 1990s most were given back to private firms after the taxes collected from the people had to be pumped into the firms to meet their salary bills every month.

Under private management many firms converted tea dryers which earlier ran on furnace oil to run to fuelwood, when commodity prices rose as loose US monetary policy pushed up commodity p