ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is seriously considering a proposal to open up the tea sector and allow imports for blending, with the aim of increasing export earnings, Minister of Plantation Industries Navin Dissanayake said.
The tea industry is going through a tough time, but with the approach of its 150th anniversary, it was time to reflect on the future, he said.
“We must look at the tea industry as part of the global beverage industry,” he told a forum held to hand over awards to the winners of the Ceylon Speciality Estate Tea of the Year 2014/15 contest held in Dubai.
The government is taking a fresh look at the workings of the industry.
“Controversial subjects are also on the table –nothing is off the table,” Dissanayake said.
“We have had two stakeholder meetings and everything is being discussed, including blending and the tea hub concept. It is not a dirty word. If a large section of exporters want it, we must discuss it.”
Tea exporters have been pressing for the liberalisation of tea imports to allow blending and export in order to increase export earnings.
But Dissanayake noted that tea producers were not in favour of the idea.
“The industry is divided into fractious, and consensus is difficult,” he said. “The garment industry operates with more unison and has more brotherhood."
“In the tea industry, each stakeholder has competing interests. That’s fair enough – it’s something they are entitled to. Producers have a different agenda than exporters and want an optimal price,” Dissanayake said.
But he said the government would strive for a consensual approach.
(Colombo/May 09 2016)