Tea is Sri Lanka’s biggest export commodity. Before the country’s economic crisis, tea exports accounted for $1.3 billion annually. But now, it has dropped to its lowest level in 23 years.
What led to this huge drop in tea exports?
The tea industry suffered from the government’s decision to ban chemical fertilisers in May 2021. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had imposed a total ban on agrochemicals, in a bid to make Sri Lankan farming 100 per cent organic.
The sudden ban hit growers hard, with production falling 18 per cent on year for the period from November 2021 to February 2022. The ban was lifted by October following backlash from the industry.
But farmers were unable to access imported fertilisers as the country simultaneously ran out of foreign exchange.