Glyphosate ban has cut tea production by 20%

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By 2017-09-25

The Glyphosate weedicide ban and the government's failure to introduce an alternative weedicide has cost at least 20 per cent of tea production annually. In addition, a lack of an alternative weedicide has also led to tea planters using other weedicides, which are unauthorized by the country's export partners, risking export restrictions on Sri Lanka's tea exports. Addressing the AGM of The Planters' Association of Sri Lanka, Chairman, Sunil Poholiyadde said, "Almost two and a half years have elapsed since the Glyphosate weedicide ban, however, no research institute has come up with an alternative chemical or weedicide for Glyphosate . Hence, planters are unable to control weeds during the monsoon season and as a result, fertilizer application has to be restricted. We presume it has caused at least a 20 per cent drop in tea production."

Meanwhile, delivering the keynote speech at the AGM, Sri Lanka Tea Board, Chairman, Rohan Pethiyagoda warned......"When the Government banned Glyphosate , they didn't give any additional resources to the Tea Research Institute (TRI) to research alternatives. The consequence of this is that many plantation owners have begun using alternatives which are not authorized in our export market. These unauthorized substances have been found in our tea exports to Germany and Japan. Sooner or later, our tea export partners would impose restrictions on Sri Lankan tea exports. This is a serious situation. However, I cannot wake the Government up to think seriously about the issues facing the tea industry."

Pethiyagoda also warned that due to climate change, Sri Lanka's tea sector was in danger and enough research was not being done by the TRI due to a shortage of funds. He said "Nuwara Eliya has become the Dry Zone of Sri Lanka, with less than 2000mm rainfall. If you tea is to be planted in this area, you need to carefully think of sustainability and how we are going to find a way to make it sustainable. 'That's the responsibility of the TRI''. ''However, do you know the current annual budget of the TRI?'' he queried. ''It's a mere Rs 90 million. We need new soil management technique and irrigation techniques, to combat climate change", he added.
Pethiyagoda pointed out that there was no rational explanation or responsible party behind the ban on Glyphosate in 2015. He asserted, "The Government banned Glyphosate almost three years ago. But who made this decision? We have a Registrar of Pesticides and the Tea Research Institute to look into matters such as these but none of them claimed that they took this decision. It is as if somebody woke up one morning and said let's ban Glyphosate . To this day, there is no one accountable for this decision", he added.

Moreover, he revealed that despite many efforts of the Minister of Plantation Industries, the government have failed to provide a solution. He elaborated "

The minister has been working hard to get the ban lifted and already have submitted three Cabinet papers. However, no one is looking in the eye and saying why it was banned despite the cost to the tea industry and to the economy."

According to latest tea export data, the country earned $ 1.002 billion during the period from January-August 2017; up a sharp 20% on last year's earnings of $ 834 million. The highest US dollar earned from exports for the eight-month period was $ 1.092 billion achieved in 2014 due high tea prices in the global market. However,Pethiyagoda warned that the country's tea sector might not be sustainable in the long-terms, unless the goverment adress the internal issues of tea planters. (NF)

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