Drought and strikes partly responsible
Tea production in 2001 fails to sustain record breaking run

Sri Lanka has not been able to sustain its record breaking run of improving tea production every year since 1995 last year, 2001 production figures released last week by the Sri Lanka Tea Board reveals.

Production last year at 295.1 million kg. was down from 305.8 million kg. the previous year, the Tea Board figures said. This was the first downturn in six years.

Although last year’s production was down from a year earlier, the dominant low grown sector had succeeded in marginally increasing production to 166.2 million kg. during the year from 166.1 million a year earlier.

Trade sources said that dry weather during the year as well as work stoppages due to trade union action was partly responsible for the production shortfall.

Sri Lanka’s tea production in 1995 was 246 million kg., rising strongly to 258 million kg. in 1996 and 277 million kg. in 1997.

The gains in the next two years were less spectacular with production at 280 million kg. in 1998 and 283 million kg. in 1999.

However, there was a great leap forward in 2000 when production hit 306 million kg. After five consecutive years of production gains, 2001 production dipped last year.

December production of high growns at 7.1 million kg. was up marginally from 7 million kg. a year earlier, while mid growns too gained slightly to 4.8 million kg. from 4.7 million kg. the previous December. But low growns were down to 15 million kg. from 15.6 million kg. in December 2000.

The production of CTC (cut, tear, curl) teas last year at 17.1 million kg. was down slightly from 17.5 million kg. a year earlier.

A very large share of national tea production now comes from the smallholder sector that had rapidly expanded in recent years. Smallholders are concentrated in the lower elevations.