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Sri Lanka tea earnings seen holding up despite lower crop

Dec 24, 2009 (LBO) - Sri Lanka's tea production this year will be lower than in 2008 because of drought and a strike but earnings should match last year's as prices have been good, a senior official said. "Prices have been good - at least 10-12 percent more than last year.
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Sri Lankan tea prices had a good run last year until around October when prices crashed with the bursting of the global commodities bubble.

But prices recovered this year as drought in key export origins like Sri Lanka, Kenya and India reduced the crop.

However, the Food and Agriculture Organisation has forecast crops will recover next year on better weather, with prices seen easing from record highs. Sri Lanka Tea Board chairman Lalith Hettiarachchi said the crop up to November this year is only about 263 million kilos.

"This means we'll probably end the year with just about 290 million kilos," he said.

The island produced about 318.5 million kilos of black tea in 2008 and earned about 1.27 billion dollars through exports.

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A strike by estate labour unions in the third quarter of this year disrupted cropping. The crops had also been reduced earlier in the year because of drought.


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