COLOMBO, March 10 (Reuters) - Sri Lanka's tea production in January fell 23 percent from a year earlier due to heavy rains, the state-run tea board said on Thursday.
Tea output in January fell 23 percent to 20.7 million kg against 26.9 million in the same month last year.
"Heavy rain and earth slips have affected the production and reduced the number of plucking days," H.D. Hemarathne, director general of the Sri Lanka Tea Board, told Reuters.
Hemarathne said February production would also be affected but if the rest of the year goes as normal, he forecast 2011's output to be more than the last year's record 329.4 million kg.
Sri Lanka's 2010 full-year tea production rose 13.1 percent to a record 329.4 million kg, from 291.1 million in 2009. The 2010 output surpassed the previous peak of 318.7 million kg in 2008.
Heavy rain and flooding on the Indian Ocean island nation already hit other crops, destroying at least a third of the total staple rice crop.
The Tea Board hopes revenue from Sri Lanka's No. 1 agricultural export crop to rise to a record high of more than $1.5 billion this year from $1.4 billion in 2010.
Sri Lanka's annual earnings from tea exports rose 16.1 percent last year, the central bank's latest data showed.
Tea is one of the $42 billion economy's main foreign currency earners, along with remittances, garment exports and tourism.
The following table shows Sri Lanka's tea output (in kg):
High Gr 4,703,779 5,853,768
Medium Gr 2,833,601 3,629,387
Low Gr 13,161,096 17,415,100
Total 20,698,476 26,898,255 (Reporting by Ranga Sirilal; Editing by Bryson Hull)