- Industry fails to meet 2% replanting target, only 0.5% or 1% is replanted
- Minister says tea prices at auction return to normalcy, expects prices to rise from Sept.
- Launches Rs.20 million local media campaign to create awareness among tea smallholders
By Charumini de Silva
The Government has begun an initiative to supply 15 million quality nursery plants to tea smallholders, to cover an area of 1,000 hectares by first half of North-East monsoon by 2020, in a bid to increase tea production.
Plantation Industries Minister Navin Dissanayake said that he has directed a tripartite agreement with the Sri Lanka Tea Board, Tea Small Holdings Development Authority (TSHDA), and Tea Research Institute of Sri Lanka (TRISL).
He believes this would facilitate a production increase in the years to come.
“I am arranging Rs.300 million on this initiative from the Tea Board. I will appeal to the exporters to release this or obtain a loan from the Tea Promotion Fund, until we collect funds to Replanting Fund at Rs.1.50 per kilogram. We will issue the plants to smallholders at a low price. I don’t mind even if it is one rupee as long as the plant is properly planted,” the Minster said.
Although the set target for replanting is at 2%, Dissanayake pointed out that the industry only meets 0.5% or 1% of the given target, which is insufficient.
“We need to increase the amount of good quality plants in the market, while ensuring that the replanting happens at the same time. We want the production to happen at the same level or at increased levels,” he added.
According to the Minister, Kenya has overtaken Sri Lanka by production and has become the key competitor of Ceylon Tea.
Highlighting the tea prices at the auction, he admitted the fact that the prices took a dip during the last several weeks.
“I am happy note that the tea prices have now come to normal. It is standard condition during June and July, and the market is aware of it. However, the green leaf suppliers were on the average of Rs.85 per kilogram, which is satisfactory. With the winter buying expected to commence by September, the forecast is for the prices to begin a gradual climb,” he added.
Further, he said measures have been taken by the Government to resolve issues with overseas tea markets and the launch of a global campaign is expected to strengthen the Ceylon tea prices.
Emphasising on the fact that a superior quality end product is absolutely vital to be supplied to the overseas customers, he said the replanting initiative will coincide with the global campaign for better results. The Minister also noted they have launched another local promotion campaign called ‘B-60’ to create awareness among tea smallholders, with an investment of Rs.20 million.
“Sri Lanka Tea Board has launched a media campaign focused on educating the green leaf suppliers to provide ‘two leaves and a bud’ quality raw material to the factories.
A sum of Rs.20 million is expected to be spent on this local campaign during a span of four months, to educate tea smallholders,” the Minister stressed.
He said 73% of the total green leaf production comes from the tea smallholders.