Global Agriculture

Director-General visits major tea producing factory and Rubber Research Institute of Sri Lanka

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19 February 2024, Colombo: FAO Director-General QU Dongyu today visited one of Sri Lanka’s major local tea factories and the country’s Rubber Research Institute after arriving here to attend the 37th Session of the FAO Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific.

The Director-General was greeted at the tea factory, about 100 kilometers south

of Colombo, by Sri Lanka’s Minister of Agriculture and Plantation Industries, Mahinda Amaraweera, with whom he toured the tea garden and spoke to tea pluckers.

Qu chatted to three smallholders at the plantation who own between 1 and 4 acres (0.4 to 1.6 hectares) each. The hosts explained that 90 percent of the tea growers who supply the factory are smallholders. 

Innovation creates incentive

Both the Director-General and Deputy Director-General Beth Bechdol tried on a new type of tea collection basket used by the tea pluckers. While it is strapped to the head and is supported by the back, the new design does not cause neck or back strain. “A small innovation can create great incentive,” Qu remarked. 

After a tour of the Athukorala Tea Factory, the Director-General  sampled several varieties of the teas grown here, which are famous worldwide for their dark, aromatic character.

Sri Lanka is one of the world’s largest tea producers and the sector is significant to the country’s economy,  earning about $ 1.3 billion annually in foreign exchange and providing direct and indirect employment to over 10% of the country’s population.

A bit further down the winding road, the Director-General and his delegation visited a rubber plantation, where Deputy Director-General Bechdol tried her hand at rubber tapping. Using a special hand tool, she sliced grooves into a rubber tree until the milky white sap – or latex liquid – appeared. A cup was then connected to the tree trunk to collect the latex sap. The Director-General and his group also saw an automated tapping machine in operation.

The delegation was told the economic lifespan of a Sri Lankan rubber tree is 30 years on average, and the tree is tapped every 2 – 6 years. The Director-General spoke to a woman smallholder who has tapped 250 trees. She owns her land and earns $3 a day or around $90 a month. Many smallholders Qu met rely on other agricultural products in addition to rubber.  

At the nearby Rubber Research Institute of Sri Lanka, the Director-General visited a rubber factory owned by the Institute. He witnessed how the rubber latex tapped from the trees is milled and turned into a semi finished product which goes to make everything from tires to rubber gloves.

The factory’s roof is covered with solar panels which, according to the factory’s directors, makes it energy self-sufficient. “Science and innovation is always key,” the Director-General said. 

To mark his visit, the Director-General planted three trees, one blue olive (Elaeocarpus serratus), one Uguressa (Flacourtia indica) and one bael tree (Aegle marmelos L. Corrêa) .

Also Read: Promising Outlook for Normal Monsoon in India in 2024

(For Latest Agriculture News & Updates, follow Krishak Jagat on Google News)

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