By Stella Paul
RATNAPURA, Sri Lanka (IDN) – The deafening sound of half a dozen rolling machines in the Rilhena tea factory feels like a hard punch on the head, but for factory workers Bihita Madura and Rajakaxmi Chandrakumar this is sweet music.
Their noise-belching, black dust-spewing machine symbolises what matters most: another day at work. “It’s a normal day for us," says Madura, watching Chandrakumar feed a shovel of black tea leaves into the giant rolling machine.
Both in their forties, Madura and Chandrakumar have good reason to be relieved: the Rilhena factory, owned by Khawatte Plantations of tea major Dilmah, is one of the country’s best-performing tea producers. But elsewhere in the country, the industry has been battling a series of problems: drought, dry spells, erratic rain, degrading land, eroding soil, crashing tea prices, low yield, labour migration and closure of factories.