Sharp fall in Sri Lanka tea exports

Sri Lanka, one of the world’s biggest tea exporters, registered a 30 percent drop in overseas sales in January because of a decline in the crop, the Sri Lanka Tea Board said on Thursday.


Sales from tea shipments fell to 6.9 billion rupees (61.37 million dollars) in January, compared to 9.8 billion rupees in the same period a year earlier, official figures showed.


Volumes of tea exports also fell 25 percent to 17.76 million kilograms (39.07 million pounds) in January, over the same month in 2008, the board said.


"We are reeling from twin effects of lower rainfall and a deliberate effort to curtail our own production. This has hit our exports in terms of volumes and earnings," Tea Board chairman Lalith Hettiarachchi told AFP.

Russia and former Soviet republics are the largest markets for Sri Lankan tea, accounting for nearly a fifth of total exports, followed by the Middle East and North Africa.


Sri Lanka benefited from the global commodity boom in early 2008, with export earnings hitting a record 1.23 billion dollars for the full year, up from 1.02 billion dollars in 2007.


Tea output also hit a record 318.47 million kilos, up from 305.2 million kilos produced in 2007.


However, with the onset of the global economic meltdown, prices have collapsed to an average of 2.65 dollars a kilo (1.20 dollars a pound) from record highs of 4.26 dollars a kilo between January and September last year.


Growers have also curbed output at the request of the Tea Board to manage high production costs and maintain quality.

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