Relief for floot-hit tea smallholders | Sunday Observer

Relief for floot-hit tea smallholders

The Ministry of Plantation Industries will provide over Rs. 50 million to each of the districts affected by floods this year. The most affected districts were Galle, Matara, Kalutara, Ratnapura and Matale.

Plantation Industries Minister Navin Dissanayake said that Rs. 417 million has been allocated to support the livelihood of workers and boost production in flood-hit area through the relief fund.

He said the disbursement of funds to the districts will commence on September 2. Accordingly, Rs. 167.56 million will be allocated to Galle, Ratnapura Rs. 92.52 million, Matara Rs. 98 million and Kalutara Rs. 59.58 million.

The tea smallholders in the Kalutara and Galle districts were the most affected by the inclement weather that devastated vast swathes of plantation land in the South.

“The objective of the relief fund is to support the smallholder sector who need assistance to make up for the loss and revive their livelihood once again,” the minister said.

The small growers who hold less than one acre have no access to banking and other funding support. Tea inspectors will inspect and monitor the utilization of the funds. Tea production is forecast to be low this year if the adverse weather continues in plantation areas during the rest of the year. However, tea production increased by 17 percent from July 2016 to July this year. “We expect production to reach around 300 million kilograms this year,” the Minister said.

Tea production last year was 288 million kgs. Tea production recorded its highest yield of 340 million kilograms in 2013.

The minister said that he was pleased with the improvement in prices which has increased considerally this year.

The average auction prices increased by around 30 percent to Rs. 591.54 in June this year from a year ago. The national average auction price from January to July increased by around 43 percent to Rs. 611.94 according to brokers. With regard to the glycophosat issue, the minister said that the matter is currently at the committee stage and that he had done his best to lift the ban on it, to support the plantation industry. “I have done my best and there is nothing more I could do,” the minister said. He said the dearth of workers in the plantation industry is a serious issue that should be looked into. The fourth generatation sees better opportutnites in urban areas. We have come up with the ‘Outgrower’ model which provides a plot of land with a stake on it which will make the occupation lucrative.

“I am not for importing labour. We need to look at home grown solutions,” the minister said. He said that the ‘Overrate’ productivity based model encourages workers to earn more. A worker has to hit the estate norm and to get the ‘Overrate’, the worker has to go over the estate norm.