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We believe this is because the SFTP and SSH-2 protocols are less efficient at bulk data transfer than SCP and SSH-1, because every block of data transferred requires an acknowledgment from the far end. It would in theory be possible to queue several blocks of data to get round this speed problem, but as yet we haven't done the coding.
Update: As of the 2003-09-30 snapshot, performance should be much improved. I believe there are tweaks that could be done to make it better still, but I'm going to declare this closed anyway.
Audit trail for this semi-bug.