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Sri Lanka Aug tea exports jump 41 pct, set for year record

25 Sep, 2008 19:31:25

COLOMBO, September 25, 2008 (AFP) - Sri Lanka's tea exports rose more than 40 percent in the first eight months of the year and are on track to earn a record 1.4 billion dollars this year, the tea board said Thursday.

Tea shipments climbed 41 percent to 883 million dollars from January to August over the same period a year earlier, driven by strong demand from Russia and the oil exporting nations of the Middle East, the Sri Lanka Tea Board said.

Sri Lanka, the world's largest tea exporter after Kenya, has benefited from the recent global commodity boom with its tea fetching the highest average auction prices on world markets all of this year.

"We've enjoyed good weather and the companies have applied fertiliser at the right time despite high world prices (for fertilisers)," said Anil Cooke, senior vice president of privately run Asia Siyaka Commodity brokers.

Tea is of key importance to the economy of Sri Lanka, which is in the grips of a bitter ethnic civil war, since it is the country's biggest agricultural export.

Sri Lanka's tea shipments climbed 9.7 percent to 220.3 million kilogrammes (484.6 million pounds) for the eight months to August from the corresponding period in 2007, the tea board said in a statement.

Sri Lankan tea, marketed under the name Ceylon Tea, is the country's third largest foreign currency revenue earner. Remittances from Sri Lankans working abroad and garment exports are the two top earners.

The country earned a record 1.02 billion dollars from tea in 2007 and is on track to better its performance and hit a record 1.4 billion dollars this calendar year, said tea board chairman Lalith Hettiarachchi.

Total production is expected to reach 320 million kilogrammes this year thanks to bountiful monsoon rains, sufficient application of fertilisers and no labour problems, the tea board's Hettiarachchi said.

Tea output slipped by two percent last year to 304.6 million kilogrammes with the fall blamed on labour unrest that dogged the sector for five years.

Most of Sri Lanka's 400,000 tea workers are descendants of Indian Tamils transported to the tropical island by its British colonial rulers to work as cheap labour.

Sri Lanka is the world's fourth-largest producer of tea behind China, India and Kenya

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Uppdaterad 2008-09-30