The tea industry is a prime driver of the economy. It seeks state assistance to funding requirements in re-planting, Colombo Tea Traders Association chairman Jayantha Keragala said.
The country's tea industry has contributed significantly to the economy over the past 100 years.
The Ceylon Tea brand consolidated country's position on the world map. The industry contributed US $ 1.5 billion net export income last year,
He was addressing the 118th Annual General Meeting last week in Colombo. The tea industry supports nearly 20 percent of the population. With outsourcing and other intermediaries, 4.3 million secure their livelihood through the industry, he said.
The tea industry despite increases in the export earnings on yearly basis faces constraints including labour issues. Due to average output of a hectare remaining unchanged, it affects the production cost adversely, he said.
Most plantations need re-planting and the cost involved is a problem for many SMEs in the industry.
The sharp currency devaluation has also affected the industry, he said.
“We need out of the box thinking as the way forward strategy for a broader outlook approach. Sri Lanka has fallen behind in the production capacity to fourth place from being the third in the previous years. The country is the third largest tea exporter in the world.
We have to be conscious of our vulnerability in the global tea industry,” Keragala said.
The Tea Research Institute needs to play a role in dealing with adulteration and it needs funding. The establishment of baseline data is necessary to address the issue and an integrated computer system could facilitate this effort, he said.
"Sri Lanka's tea industry will be ICT oriented with the implementation of the computerization process. The industry while recognizing the role played by the tea brokers, emphases on the need for spot checks on sellers and broker ware houses to bring in the aspect of ethical behaviour," he said.