Sri Lanka tea farms mull irrigation to counter weather changes

Dec 02, 2009 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s plantations need foreign investment for estate and factory modernisation, including irrigation to counter changing weather patterns, said Kumar Jayasuriya, chairman, James Finlay, Colombo. Regional plantation companies running the island’s tea estates could do with foreign investment in irrigating fields, to cope with changes in rainfall patterns which could damage crops, he told an investor forum.

The plantation companies also need funds for replanting, which has been neglected, and to diversify into green and organic tea, he said.

“We can’t control two factors – weather and commodity prices,” said Jayasuriya, whose firm is part of the Swire group based in the UK.

“Weather patterns are different to that many years ago. Now people might not grow tea in areas tea had been grown in because of the terrain and the weather becoming irregular.”

Plantation firms have invested very little on irrigation.

“Here is an opportunity,” Jayasuriya told the forum organised by Leopard Capital, an investment company which is setting up a Sri Lanka fund.

Companies growing tea were having problems due to irregular weather patterns with the risk of unexpected droughts destroying