Climatic Change

, Volume 140, Issue 3–4, pp 577–592 | Cite as

The impact of changing climate on perennial crops: the case of tea production in Sri Lanka

  • R. P. Dayani Gunathilaka
  • James C. R. Smart
  • Christopher M. Fleming


The plantation crop sector, particularly tea, is a key contributor to the Sri Lankan economy in terms of foreign exchange earnings, employment, and food supply. However, changes in temperature, rainfall, and the occurrence of extreme weather events have adversely affected the sector. Many studies in the literature have focused on climate change impacts on major annual crops; however, to date, comprehensive assessments of the economic impacts of weather variations on perennial crops are rare. In this paper, we use monthly panel data from 40 different tea estates in Sri Lanka over a 15-year period to analyse weather effects on production from the tea plantation sector. Specifically, we use a two-stage panel data approach to explore how tea production in Sri Lanka is affected by both short-term weather variations and long-term climate change. Overall, our findings show that a hotter and wetter climate will have a detrimental effect on Sri Lankan tea production. In high, medium, and low emissions futures, our predictions show a negative proportional impact from increased rainfall and increased average temperature. Under a high emissions scenario, by mid-century, a decline of 12% in annual tea production is predicted. Other climate-susceptible perennial crops such as rubber, coconut, and oil palm play similarly major roles in the economies of other developing countries, suggesting that our approach could usefully be replicated elsewhere.


Perennial Crop Predict Climate Change Foreign Exchange Earning Climate Change Prediction Proportional Impact 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This work would not have been possible without permission from Sri Lankan tea plantation companies to access their records. The assistance from Mr Niraj De Mel is greatly appreciated in this regard. We gratefully acknowledge helpful comments from Dr Celine Nauges and Prof. Jeffrey Vincent. The RIMES supported by giving the access for the downscaled prediction data. The authors also thank Ms Chithrangani Rathnayake, Dr Senani Karunaratne, and Mr Graeme Curwen for their assistance in GIS. The financial support given by the Australia Endeavour Postgraduate Research Scholarship and South Asian Network for Development and Environmental Economics is greatly appreciated.

Supplementary material

10584_2016_1882_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (157 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 157 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. P. Dayani Gunathilaka
    • 1
    • 2
  • James C. R. Smart
    • 1
  • Christopher M. Fleming
    • 3
  1. 1.School of EnvironmentGriffith UniversityNathanAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Export AgricultureUva Wellassa UniversityBadullaSri Lanka
  3. 3.Business SchoolGriffith UniversitySouth BankAustralia

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