Tea, which grows across the island’s central hillside regions and in the south, saw output fall four-percent to 104 million kilos from January to April this year, over the same period 2011, the Tea Board said Thursday.
Farm output for April eased down two-percent to 29.3 million kilos, over the same month last year, the board said.
“This year’s (April) crop figure is the lowest since 2008,” Asia Siyaka Commodities Limited said in a note to clients on Thursday.
High growns were the worst hit with production down 12 percent from 8.2 million kilos in 2011 to 7.2 million kilos this year.
Mediums were up nine-percent year-on-year, while low growns maintained their previous levels, the commodity broker said.
Botanically known as Camellia sinenis, tea is Sri Lanka’s single largest foreign exchange earner, besides clothing exports, remittances and tourism.
The island’s green gold, which is sold overseas under its colonial name “Pure Ceylon Tea” is made with tender leafs and buds.
Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States, account for most Sri Lankan tea shipments, followed by the Middle East.
However, tea shipments fell two-percent to 96.4 million kilos from January to April, this year, as against the same period 2011, the board said.
Sri Lankan exporters benefitted from a weak currency, which helped rupee earnings from tea to remain flat at 51 billion rupees (421 million dollars), despite shipping less of the commodity.
In dollar terms, however, export earnings dipped 10-percent over last year’s figure of 467 million dollars.
Exports in bulk form, which accounts for some 41 percent of shipments, fell three-percent to 39.2 million kilos during the four month period.
Asia Siyaka said it was concerned that tea bag exports fell 14 percent to 7.6 million kilos during the four-month period of this year.
Packet tea, which falls under the value added segment, saw a marginal growth in exports of 47.4 million kilos this year, over 46.8 million kilos in January – April 2011.
Exports to Russia and the CIS regions, fell five-percent to 23 million kilos.
Shipments to Turkey fell to 6.0 million kilos from 7.8 million kilos over the corresponding four month period 2011, while the United Arab Emirates saw volumes drop to 3.1 million kilos (over 8.1 million kilos in 2011).
There was an uptake in tea shipments to Iran (up 13.0 million kilos), Iraq (up 22 percent to 6.5 million kilos) and Libya (5.4 million kilos). Syria maintained its quantities at 8.0 million kilos.
Japan a high value market for high growns has eased from 3.9 million kilos to 3.1 million kilos in 2012.