Tea farmers in Sri Lanka are struggling to make ends meet after their land was destroyed by heavy floods and mudslides last month. The floods, described by authorities as the worst to hit the country in more than a decade, killed more than 200 people and displaced more than 600,000 people from their homes.
For many of the 400,000 small farmers who grow more than 70 percent of the country’s tea, the floods covered their tea bushes by up to five metres with mud and sludge, leading to the rotting of some roots.
K Seelawathi, a farmer in the town of Akuressa in Matara district, hopes this will be the last flood she sees in her lifetime.
“I used to harvest 400 kilograms at a time, earning a good amount,” she told Al Jazeera.
“I built my house and educated my children. But with almost no income now, things are very difficult.”
Prabhat Bezbaruah, chairman of the Sri Lanka Tea Board, says almost 300 tonnes of tea and green leaf were destroyed by the floods, while damage to factories is still being assessed.
He says the cost of the floods needs to be measured in humanitarian, and not financial, terms.
Losses that small farmers have incurred in terms of their lives and property are substantial, Bezbaruah says.
Sri Lanka’s tea industry, which earns $1.3bn a year, has also seen a decrease in supply after the floods.