The long overdue tea infilling and replanting program will kick off with nurseries to be laid this year to commence replanting next year aimed at increasing crop yield, a top official of the Sri Lanka Tea Board (SLTB) said.
SLTB Chairman Lucille Wijewardena said tea infilling and replanting has to be done in about 1,000 hectares or between two to three percent of the total crop. It is only around one percent of the total crop that has been replanted. “Tea replanting is done once is 30 to 40 years. The absence of replanting will result in reduction in crop, drop in quality of leaf and difficulties in plucking. Coast leaves reduces the quality of made teas,” Wijewardena said.
He said there should be about 5,000 bushes per hectare but presently there are only between 2,000-3,000 bushes per hectare.
A total of 13,000 plants per hectare will be replanted at a cost of Rs. 2.5 million targeting 1,000 hectares over a period of four and a half years.
“We have launched a program to support tea small holders by way of a payment to supplement the loss of income as a result of uprooting bushes,” Wijewardena said.
With regard to unethical practices in the industry the SLTB chief said such practices have come down by around 90 percent since the beginning of the year.
“We have been checking the manufacturing process and have seen a marked reduction in the past four months in unethical practices this year. Such practices tarnish the good name of the industry. Raids were conducted and warnings were given. Few factories were suspended while most promised not to indulge in such practices,” Wijewardena said.
Following raids carried out by the SLTB two years ago certain factories were allegedly found to have adulterated tea with sugar during production.
Tea production this year according to the SLTB chief would reach around 310 million kgs provided there is favourable weather during the rest of the year.
Tea production ended on a grim note last year recording 303 million kgs down from the previous year’s 307 million kgs. Sri Lanka’s tea production averaged around 330- 340 million kgs between 2010 to 2015. “Export earning from tea is likely to reach the last year’s figure of US$ 1.5 billions,” Wijewardena said.
The much look forward to Rs. 4.5 billion global tea promotional campaign by the SLTB will commence in August. The campaign targeting 12 markets will initially be launched in Russia and Ukraine and then in China and Japan toward the end of the year.