Sri Lanka’s Maskeliya to mechanise tea estates

July 19, 2008 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s Maskeliya Plantations is planning to introduce more mechanisation in its tea fields and factories to reduce dependence on a costly and troublesome labour force. The company has changed planting methods to make mechanised harvesting easier in the future, Maskeliya Plantations chairman Sena Yaddehige has said.

The company, part of the Richard Pieris group, makes almost nine million kilos of black tea, or 12.5 percent of national production in the high grown elevation.

“As a mode of reducing our dependence on a large and costly labour force we’re in the process of mechanising various agricultural as well as factory practices for greater efficiency,” Yaddehige told shareholders in his annual report.

Planting density and patterns have been changed to facilitate eventual mechanical harvesting, the report said.

Sri Lanka’s tea industry has long complained of low productivity among tea pluckers who pluck the green leaf.

Various experiments have been made with mechanical harvesting machines to improve yield.

Maskeliya has some of the oldest tea bushes in the business, one of the reasons for low yields apart from poor labour productivity.