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National project launched for popularizing the use of machines in tea smallholdings sector

(Created date: 01-Jun-2014)

Launching the national project for popularizing the use of machineries in tea smallholdings, the Minister of Plantation Industries, Hon. Mahinda Samarasinghe handed over 21 million Rupees worth of machines and equipment to 50 societies of tea smallholders and 25 bought leaf tea factories providing extension services at the auditorium of the Rubber Research Institute, Dartonfield, Agalawatta on 20th May 2014. The Rs.100 million project is jointly implemented by the Tea Research Institute and Tea Small Holdings Development Authority (TSHDA) in collaboration with the Sri Lanka Tea Board, Sri Lanka Federation of Tea Smallholdings Development Societies and Sri Lanka Tea Factory Owners Association under the guidance of the Ministry of Plantation Industries.

Rationale

Labour scarcity is one of the crucial factors that determine the profitability of tea plantations. Presently, the Sri Lankan tea industry faces shortage of skilled labour for routine field operations. The most labour intensive field operation i.e. tea harvesting requires 60-70% of the daily labour out-turn contributing to 30-40% of total cost of production. Lack of skilled labour for harvesting of tea not only reduces yield but it also adversely affect quality of made tea. Additionally, pruning and holing operations are also considered to be labour intensive field practices. Considering the long term sustainability of the tea industry and alarming situation of labour scarcity, the Tea Research Institute proposed this project in 2012 targeting the tea smallholdings sector who contributes to around 70% of the national tea production.

Objectives

The objectives of the project were four-fold. Popularization of mechanical devices for harvesting, pruning and holing, training of small holders on the proper use of mechanical devices, attract and retain youth in the industry and design, test and fabricate light-weight and user friendly harvesting machine suitable for tea plantations in Sri Lanka.

Activities

Initial awareness programs were held to discuss plans and disseminate knowledge on benefits of mechanization among the small holders (society members), factory owners and regional extension officers of tea related organizations. The enthusiastic smallholders selected by the societies and factories were trained as machine operators and trainers at the Tea Research Institute, Low country Regional Centre, Ratnapura during two-day residential Training of Trainers (TOT) sessions. Most suitable machines presently available in the local and international market were selected and procured for distribution after field testing. Regional training and awareness programs are carried out by the recipient societies and factories under the guidance of TSHDA and Tea Board officials to train other users. Overall success of the project will be assessed through a comprehensive survey planned to be undertaken by the implementing organizations in the near future when the machines are in operation.

 
 
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