TRI hit by shortfall in scientific personnel


By Hiran H.Senewiratne

The Tea Research Institute of Sri Lanka (TRI), the country's premier research institute on tea, is now facing a crisis of not having adequate high quality research personnel to do high quality research and development for the benefit of the sector.

"At present, TRI is facing an issue of attracting high quality professionals, who could do quality research on the tea industry, which is now the need of the hour due to the emergenceof new diseases and climate changes in the country, TRI's Deputy Director, Research (Production) and Nematologist Dr Keerthi M Mohotti told The Island Financial Review.

He said that at present they have 50 high quality research staff but need another 50 high quality research personnel to do quality research work for the industry. But the main problem is that those high quality research persons cannot be attracted due to the lack of facilities in the area and other issues, such as quality schooling for those staff members' children, he said.

"Another issues is that these professionals should be properly remunerated. Most high quality research professionals are now leaving the institute for better jobs and packages, Mohotti said.

He also said that the main laboratories at the TRI at Talawakelle are well equipped for basic scientific as well as applied research but the only issue is that they need another at least 50 highly skilled and qualified staff to run the institution.

TRI Additional Director Dr L.S.K Hettiarchchi said that the administration headquarters and main labs of the Institute situated at St Coomb's estate in the Dimbulla planting district of the Central Province in Nuwara Eliya district have developed a 5000 series new plant for the up country tea estates, which could resist any pest related disease and could withstand climate changes, specially drought.

Hettiarchchci also said that they have developed many new products such as tea wine and several new tea related items. "But these new research and development activities could be done if we have good high quality research professionals with Masters degrees, he said.

He also said that the tea sector is one of the main foreign exchange earners of the country. The TRI plays a pivotal role, in research and development, that works for the betterment of the sector.

Hettiarchchci said that most tea producing countries are coming up in a big way, which could pose a major threat to Sri Lanka's tea industry in the future. At present Kenya and several other countries are coming up in a major way, he said.

TRI was founded in 1925 in accordance with the provisions of an Ordinance passed in the Legislative Council of Ceylon. The institute is at present managed by the Tea Research Board that was established by an Act of Parliament in 1993.

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