Saturday, 25 January 2014 00:00
Plantation Industries Minister elated by historic achievements
Says Govt. support to industry especially smallholders has paid off
By Shabiya Ali Ahlam
Sri Lanka’s tea industry has ended 2013 on a record note in all aspects, with the Government emphasising that support to the sector, especially smallholders, has paid off.
“Based on 2013 data from the Tea Board, from every sphere of this great industry we see a growth and in some areas it has been a historic growth,” Plantation Industries Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe told a press conference yesterday.
He said for the first time in the history, Sri Lanka has been able to achieve the highest-ever crop of 340.8 million kilos in 2013. In comparison to 2012, the latest annual production figure reflects a 12.5 million kilo increase or 3%. The tea industry also completed three successive years of improvement in tea crop in 2013.
“The record crop in 2013 is a huge and historic achievement in comparison to the recent past,” Samarasinghe said.
Commenting on the auction prices, he said 2013 established yet another record with total average price of Rs. 444.75 per kilo, up from Rs. 390.03 in the previous year. In dollar terms, it was $ 3.44 per kilo in 2013 in comparison to $ 3.05 per kilo in the previous year. The Minister commended the latter on the basis that the increase was despite the devaluation of the rupee.
Sri Lanka’s tea exports too recorded the highest-ever value terms in 2013, notching up $ 1.54 billion, reflecting a 21.56% increase over the previous year. On volume, the amount exported were 319.66 million kilos, marginally down from 319.94 million kilos in 2012. Quantity wise, 2010 figure of 324.359 million kilos remain the unbroken record whilst 2013 marked the third successive year of decline.
However, Samarasinghe said on FOB basis, Sri Lanka tea exported in 2013 fetched Rs. 623.91 per kilo, the highest-ever and on dollar terms too, it was a record $ 4.82 per kilo.
“In 2013, 49% of our total exports were in value added form. This is also a great achievement,” the Minister said, adding that the figure was high when compared with Sri Lanka’s other major competitors such as Kenya and India whose value added share is low at 11%.
“There are many advantages when value added exports rise since it creates room for more investment, employment and income generation. Our policy in the Ministry has been to work with the private sector to encourage more value added exports,” Samarasinghe said.
He said that the Government has focused a lot on replanting. “We have looked at this industry with the objective of making it sustainable on a long-term basis. This is why replanting was given number one priority. President Mahinda Rajapaksa understanding its importance has increased the replanting subsidy to Rs. 350,000. I am also happy to say that replanting has also shown a big improvement,” Samarasinghe disclosed.
In 2012 the replanting involved 937 hectares, and in 2013 this has increased to 1,222 hectares. “Another initiative that we launched is the new cultivation and a subsidy of Rs. 250,000 will be given in 2014 for small holders per hectare. This is a huge injection of capital to help small holders to make the tea industry sustainable,” he said.
According to Samarasinghe, the Government also spends about Rs. 4.5 billion on the fertiliser subsidy per year and this will continue. “The President has understood the importance of small holders to increase their income and on the other hand to increase greater productivity and production. This is well reflected by the record tea crop in 2013,” the Minister added.