Sri Lanka’s Ceylon Tea production has dropped by 16.13 percent in January 2023 from a year earlier to 19.14 million kilograms, mainly due to policy mismanagement and bad weather, reports said.
The effects of a chemical fertilizer ban under former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s government are still lingering in tea farms and bushes are still recovering from the lack of nutrition. The fertilizer ban was lifted in 2022 but supplies were limited amid forex shortages.
Sri Lanka tea production for January 2023 was 19.14 million kilograms down from 22.8 million kilograms a year ago.
In January 2023, high grown tea production fell 34 percent to 3.5 million kilograms.
Medium grown fell 36.9 percent to 2.3 million kilograms and low-grown was down 3.01 percent to 13.1 million kilograms, industry data published by Forbes and Walkers Tea Brokers show.
The national average tea price in January was 4.05 dollars or 1,466.76 in rupees.
Sri Lankan tea has been earning higher prices for tea exports in rupees after the currency was depreciated in March against the USA dollar in 2022.
Tea exports were also down by 9.4 percent from a year ago to 17.56 million kilograms in January 2023.
“We are talking about a tea bush that had little to no fertilizer for one and half years, some of them even for two years,” Tea Board Chairman Niraj de Mel told EconomyNext.
“Some private sector companies got it after the ban but it was also a very small percentage.
“Just because the fertilizer issue’s being sorted out, does not mean everything is sorted now.”
The first three months may not indicate the response to fertilizer De Mel said but a recovery is likely to be seen later, on a lower base.
“So my outlook is in the second quarter, April, May or June should be better than last year” he said.
In 2022, Sri Lanka produced 251 million kilograms of tea and the new target of 2023 is around 272-280 million kilograms, with an expected forex revenue of 1.4 billion US dollars.