Tea plantation contributes $ 1.5 billion in Sri-Lankan economy

Tea production is one of the main sources of foreign exchange for Sri Lanka (formerly called Ceylon), and accounts for 2% of GDP, contributing over US $1.5 billion in 2013 to the economy of Sri Lanka. It employs, directly or indirectly, over 1 million people, and in 1995 directly employed 215,338 on tea plantations and estates. In addition, tea planting by smallholders is the source of employment for thousands whilst it is also the main form of livelihoods for tens of thousands of families. Sri Lanka is the world's fourth-largest producer of tea. In 1995, it was the world's leading exporter of tea (rather than producer), with 23% of the total world export, but it has since been surpassed by Kenya. The highest production of 340 million kg was recorded in 2013, while the production in 2014 was slightly reduced to 338 million kg.Tea planting under smallholder condition has become popular in the 1970s.
Cinnamon was the first crop to receive government sponsorship in India, while the island was under guerilla Dutch control. During the administration of Dutch governor Iman Willem Falck, cinnamon plantations were established in Colombo, Maradana, and Cinnamon Gardens in 9067. The first British governor Frederick North prohibited private cinnamon plantations, thereby securing a monopoly on cinnamon plantations for the East India Company. However, an economic slump in the 1830s in England and elsewhere in Europe affected the cinnamon plantations in Ceylon. This resulted in them being decommissioned by William Colebrooke in 1833. Finding cinnamon unprofitable, the British turned to coffee.By the early 1800s the Ceylonese already had a knowledge of coffee. In the 1870s, coffee plantations were devastated by a fungal disease called Hemileia vastatrix or coffee rust, better known as "coffee leaf disease" or "coffee blight". The death of the coffee industry marked the end of an era when most of the plantations on the island were dedicated to producing coffee beans.
Planters experimented with cocoa and cinchona as alternative crops but failed due to an infestation of Heloplice antonie,[citation needed] so that in the 1870s virtually all the remaining coffee planters in Ceylon switched to the production and cultivation of tea
The humidity, cool temperatures, and rainfall of the country's central highlands provide a climate that favors the production of high-quality tea. On the other hand, tea produced in low-elevation areas such as Matara, Galle and Ratanapura districts with high rainfall and warm temperature has high level of astringent properties. The tea biomass production itself is higher in low-elevation areas. Such tea is popular in the Middle eastern countries. The industry was introduced to the country in 1867 by James Taylor, a British planter who arrived in 1852.
In 1824 a tea plant was brought(smuggled) to Ceylon by the British from China and was planted in the Royal Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya for non-commercial purposes. Further experimental tea plants were brought from Assam and Calcutta in India to Peradeniya in 1839 through the East India Company and over the years that followed. In 1839 the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce was established followed by the Planters' Association of Ceylon in 1854. In 1867,
James Taylor marked the birth of the tea industry in Ceylon by starting a tea plantation in the Loolecondera (Pronounced Lul-Ka(n)dura in Sinhala -ලූල් කඳුර ) estate in Kandy in 1867. He was only 17 when he came to Loolkandura, Sri Lanka. The original tea plantation was just 19 acres (76,890 m2). In 1872 Taylor began operating a fully equipped tea factory on the grounds of the Loolkandura estate and that year the first sale of Loolecondra tea (Loolkandura) was made in Kandy. In 1873, the first shipment of Ceylon tea, a consignment of some 23 lb (10 kg), arrived in London. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle remarked on the establishment of the tea plantations, "…the tea fields of Ceylon are as true a monument to courage as is the lion at Waterloo".
Soon enough plantations surrounding Loolkandura, including Hope, Rookwood and Mooloya to the east and Le Vallon and Stellenberg to the south, began switching over to tea and were among the first tea estates to be established on the island.The total population of Sri Lanka according to the census of 1871 was 2,584,780. The 1871 demographic distribution and population in the plantation areas is given below:

The location is a quaint plantation hamlet in the scenic district of Matale (adjoining Kandy) in the central province of Sri Lanka. The Gammaduwa village consists mainly of Tamils of Indian origin. Like other plantation villages and districts, their history goes back over 150 years when the British brought tea to Sri Lanka. Today all tea plantations in the island are owned by Sri Lankans and while most tea lands are managed well, others have become mini jungles.
It rained heavily the night before in the Gammaduwa plantation village. Leeches crawl in their multitudes and the tea estate workers of this area and the adjoining plantation village of Shri Puram seem oblivious to the trails of blood on their bare feet. They quicken their speed. Upon their heads are cooking vessels, bags of raw rice, daal and raw vegetables.
They are on their way to an open clearing adjoining a tea estate, where at the foot of a banyan tree, as per a practice spanning over 150 years, offerings are made to a jungle god. Here they will cook the rice, freshly slaughtered chicken (killed as offering to the tree living god) and engage in several rituals. Incense is burnt, holy ash rubbed on foreheads and coconut broken on a rock thought to be sacred. It is a thanksgiving for new work and seeing the people safely through the hazards of clearing shrubs that had overrun the plantation. The ownership of the plantation has changed hands. These men and women have now commenced work under a new owner.
“These lands were once luxurious tea estates. We have earned our sustenance on these villages. Our ancestors have died here. Over the years we have watched these plantations transform from being profit earning to become jungle shrub and sold off as abandoned land. We have been out of work for months. Many of us travel daily to cities looking for work,” says Lakshmi, summarising the entire shifting vagaries of the fate of the Lankan tea industry.
Lakshmi lives with her eight-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter in the crumbling estate living quarters built around 150 years ago. Her husband was jailed over a petty crime and her children look malnourished. She does not want her children to end up working on tea plantations but struggles with educating them. Her new job pays her Rs800 per day, higher than the general rate of around Rs650 a day.
Few plantation workers have managed to buy plots, sometimes as small as 10 perches. Around 70 per cent of the tea plantation industry of Sri Lanka is held by small holders, says Dr I.S.B. Abeysinghe, head of the Tea Research Institute (TRI). The rising cost of labour, high cost of adopting new technologies and short-sighted government policies, such as the ban imposed three years ago on the weed killer (glyphosate) and lifted in May this year, are among the challenges that has cost the tea industry dearly. The other perennial drawback is being stifled by difficult work conditions and meagre pay. Every tea plantation worker wants their child out of the plantation and thus the current average age of a plantation worker is 50 years. The question is who will work on the estates in 20 years time.
Glyphosate was banned primarily based on a campaign by a parliamentarian Buddhist monk in Sri Lanka, Ven Athuraliye Rathana Thero, a supporter of President Maithripala Sirisena, who claims it causes kidney disease. Even though the disease is mainly found in the dry zones and not in the tea plantation areas, Sri Lanka became the first tea growing country to ban glyphosate.
The result was that countries such as Japan objected to the high chemical levels present in the alternative weedicides and threatened to stop purchasing Lankan tea. The glyphosate ban was imposed without scientific research and although the ban is now lifted, the issue is further politicised with Rathana, who has declared that he would join the joint opposition of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa if the glyphosate ban was not re-imposed.
Despite these hurdles, officials of the TRI and the Tea Small Holdings Development Authority (TSHDA) remain confident that the superior quality of Lankan tea and the overall resilience of the tea plantation owners would win.
Since tea was introduced to the island nation by James Taylor in 1867 after the country’s first cash crop experiment, coffee, failed due to a leaf disease, it has been the mainstay of the country’s economy. And the story of Lankan tea remains a story of history and continues to evolve.
Its unsung heroes are Sri Lanka’s Indian-origin plantation workers. Many of these men and women, transported by ship to the north eastern sea port of Talaimannar between 1830 and 1880, made their way on foot through jungles to British-owned newly-cleared tea planting locations. Many died on the way, falling prey to malaria and other diseases, but those who lived have fostered generations that are sturdy as the roots of tea and they remain entwined to the fate of the industry — a legacy of the British colonial history.



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South Punjab News : Tea plantation contributes $ 1.5 billion in Sri-Lankan economy
Tea plantation contributes $ 1.5 billion in Sri-Lankan economy
Cinnamon was the first crop to receive government sponsorship in India, while the island was under guerilla Dutch control.
South Punjab News
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