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SL looking at mechanical tea harvesting to combat labour scarcity

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by Chanka Jayasinghe

Sri Lanka’s Tea Board, fearing labor shortages, has initiated mechanized tea harvesting with no quality or production loss expected, E.A.J.K. Edirisinghe, Commissioner of the Tea Board said He said the Tea Research Institute (TRI) has already carried out research collaborating with Japan, and identified that efficiency can be improved, while preserving the same production capacity in estates.

“Machine plucking and hand plucking are two different techniques. When you do hand plucking only, the best buds will be plucked. When plucking by machine, we will train the bush for the machine by grooming it,” Edirisinghe told reporters at a media briefing last week. “Then every 15 days, there will be new buds because of the way we groomed the bush.”

He said currently 55 lands in each TRI division have been cultivated with a mechanized tea harvesting model and the cultivators are asked to grow their tea according to the new model.

However, in a publication last year, the TRI mentioned that none of the mechanized harvesting machines tested in Sri Lanka could harvest tea leaves selectively, leaving tender shoots on the bush.

The harvested crop contained mature foliage and twigs etc. which had be removed by manual sorting.Average output of machines is in the range between 50 (small machines) and 350 (large machines) kg/day. But, the sorting and cleaning process need more labor, industry experts say.Machine plucking extends the frequency of harvesting (plucking round) due to non-selective harvesting of leaf. Industry experts say tea yield under mechanical harvesting could fall 30-50 percent in comparison to manual harvesting.

Officials from Planters Association of Ceylon have said machine tea harvesting was tested, but it cannot be implemented in Sri Lanka due to the damage it does to the bush.However, tea board officials said no production will be lost if the bush is first groomed to suit mechanized harvesting.

“If you harvest a previously hand plucked bush by machine, then yes the damage will be great and yes there will be a drop around 20-30 percent,” Edirisinghe said.

“But when you start plucking after grooming, the buds will break on the plucking surface and there will be no damage,” he said, adding that countries like Kenya, Japan and Malaysia use the method without any drop in quality and quantity.Tea Board and Tea Small Holding Development Authority (TSHDA) will provide 437,000 rupees per acre of tea land for those who follow the new model along with a special irrigation system.

“That does not mean hand plucking will be stopped. When there is no labour, we can use machines,” Edirisinghe said.

“The reason why we are doing this is if we ever have to go for mechanical harvesting, then we will have to remove existing plantation and plant anew to adapt to the new order. (Economy Next)



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At least 17 killed after explosion in Peshawar mosque

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(picture from twitter)

BBC reported that at least 17 people have been killed in an explosion at a mosque in the Pakistani city of Peshawar.

The blast happened when the mosque was packed with worshippers and more than 90 people were injured.

A section of the building was destroyed, and officials say people are buried under the rubble. Several others are being taken to local hospitals.

The cause of the explosion is unclear.

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More heavy rain ahead for New Zealand’s largest city

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Auckland experienced an unprecedented amount of rainfall on Friday (picture BBC)

BBC reported that residents in flood-hit northern New Zealand are bracing for more heavy rains as officials issued severe weather alerts.

At least four people have died and a state of emergency was declared in Auckland, which on Friday experienced its worst downpour on record.

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Information Dept. media release: EC Chief asks public not to be misled

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by Priyan de Silva

Chairman of the Election Commission of Sri Lanka, Nimal Punchihewa, asked to comment on a special news release, purportedly issued by the Director General of the Department of Government Information, on Sunday (29), told  The Island  that preparations for the 09 March local government elections were going ahead, as planned, and that the media statement at issue was misleading.

The media statement says: “The gazette notice with signatures of the Chairman and other members of the Election Commission required for the commencement of the Local Government election process has not been sent to the Government Press for printing.”

Punchihewa requested the public not to be misled by any misinformation being spread in an attempt to create doubts in their minds.He also  reiterated that the EC would not be deterred by any acts of intimidation.

Three of the EC members have been threatened with death by an unidentified caller to resign from their posts. They are S. B. Divaratne, M. M. Mohamed and K. P. P. Pathirana. The Opposition has accused the government of trying to sabotage the LG polls.

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