A long-time deputy Chairman of Dilmah, and a plantation owner & manager, Mr. Herman Gunaratne has expressed serious concerns as to tea production in Sri Lanka.
His plantations are responsible for obtaining the highest price for Ceylon Tea, at $2,000 USD per Kg which is the most expensive tea in Sri Lanka.
The master tea maker fears that there might be a severe impact from the transformation from chemical to organic fertilizer on Sri Lanka’s biggest export, being tea.
“President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s intentions are honorable but is ill-advised on how the transformation should be made.” He pointed out that, “seeking to do the transformation overnight is where the fault lies.”
According to Mr. Gunaratne, there are 03 important components when it comes to fertilization in the tea industry, they are:
- Phosphates – available in their natural form in the Heppawala Rock Phosphate Mine
- Potash – has to be obtained from different sources but is also natural
- Nitrogen – only inorganic component which can be considered chemical
“Nitrogen is the ingredient that is necessary to enhance the production”, he noted, while pointing out that “all tea in Sri Lanka has been hybridized and bred, where the plants require a high level of nitrogen and if the tea plants are deprived of nitrogen the crops will decline by 50%.”
Mr. Gunaratne explained that the Nitrogen normally used is in the form of Urea, which is comprised of 46.5% Nitrogen, while, organic fertilizer has only 02% Nitrogen.
He further stated that for a hectare of tea, 604 kg of fertilizer mixture is required and approved by the Tea Research Institute of Sri Lanka (TRI), meanwhile, in an alternative method, 80,000 tons of compost fertilizer is required to come to the same level.
The loss of crops is inevitable without Nitrogen as it is important.
“This overnight transformation will detriment not only to the tea industry but to vegetables, paddy lands and all other agriculture products as well.”
“A proposal has been submitted to the Sri Lankan government to reduce the fertilizer usage by 50% without a detriment to the industry by utilizing fertilizer to the maximum,” he stated.
Mr. Gunaratne says he feels that Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa should reengineer his decision, so the transformation from chemical to organic fertilizer will be made gradually.