Sri Lanka’s tea exports have dropped to a 23 year low as the country is in the midst of its worst economic crisis in living memory.
Tea, Sri Lanka’s biggest export, brought an estimated $1.3 billion annually before the island was hit with its current economic crisis.
France 24 reported that in the first quarter of 2021, 68.9 million kilos were exported which had fallen to 63.7 million kilos in the first quarter of 2022.
Export earnings for the first quarter also declined from $338 million in 2021 to $287 million in 2022. This is the lowest recorded export since the first quarter of 1999, when Sri Lanka exported 60.3 million kilos of tea.
The tea industry, already affected by the Rajapaksa regime’s decision to ban all chemical fertilisers, was impacted further following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The two countries were top buyers of Sri Lanka's tea, with reports that the invasion has affected around 10% of Sri Lanka’s tea exports.
Sri Lanka is in the throes of its worst economic crisis since its independence, with foreign exchange reserves at a record low and prices of fuel, food and medicines at an all time high. Unable to pay its foreign debts or imports, Sri Lanka has turned to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank for financial assistance.
The economic crisis has sparked protests predominantly in the capital calling for the resignation of Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Although Rajapaksa admitted that his ban on chemical fertilisers and refusal to turn to the IMF were mistakes, he has refused to abdicate his position.