Sri Lanka bureaucrats accused of delaying tea marketing campaign

ECONOMYNEXT –  A Sri Lankan exporter of value added teas has accused bureaucrats of the previous administration of deliberately delaying a global tea marketing campaign despite collecting a huge fund from a cess on exports.

The present global slump in tea prices and turmoil in key export markets was hurting the industry, said Rohan Fernando, chairman of tea exporter HVA Foods.

A new Tea Board administration appointed after a change of government in January has a better understanding of the needs of the Ceylon tea industry, he told shareholders in the company’s annual report.

A tea marketing campaign proposed over four years ago was approved belatedly by the new government with the fund now rising to five billion rupees.

“Although the scheme is four years too late, the Cabinet approval received for the global marketing campaign will have positive results in reversing the negative effects at the Colombo tea auctions,” Fernando said.

“For five long years, when the tea prices enjoyed a premium at the Colombo auction, the top bureaucrats were comfortable in assuming that prices would continue to maintain high levels and purposely delayed the global marketing campaign,” he said.

“What we are seeing today are the ill effects of bad decisions taken in the recent past.”

Fernando, who is also head of the Sri Lanka Tea Exporters Association, said the change of administration at the Ministry of Plantations and the Sri Lanka Tea Board has “vastly improved” the interaction between the officials and representatives of the trade.

“They have now understood the importance of promotion and marketing of indigenous tea brands in the global market place to entice consumers to buy Ceylon teas.” (Colombo/August 20 2015)

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