Rs. 500 million allocation for brand promotion to boost value-added tea exports


Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe and Minister Naveen Dissanayake.
 - Pic by Gamini Munasinghe

By Steve A. Morrell

Minister Plantation Industries Naveen Dissanayake, guest of honour at the Annual General Meeting, Tea Exporters Association, ( TEA) said Colombo should be attributed hub status. But this possibility eluded us. There are other locations where tea is traded although this commodity was not produced in such identified areas. He said Rs.500 million will be allocated for brand promotion of Ceylon Tea.

He added - 'Producers opposed import of tea for blending and re-export. They are now in a comfort zone; but apart from resistance to new innovation they do not offer alternatives to move the industry forward. It is imperative we have to compete at highest levels. Countries like Kenya or India are looking ahead. Our production levels decreased irrespective of the tea industry now managed by the private sector.

'Globally the tea industry realizes substantial funds but in the Sri Lankan context our exports are about 1.6 billion dollars in forex earnings. Is this our potential? Is it that we must remain at this level. It is agreed prices must be maintained, but crop is dropping.

'Re-planting which has not been of priority importance caused serious crop losses. This aspect of production is of intense concern. Replanting must be increased by 73 percent. With this end in view smallholders will be encouraged as much as expectations are that the formal sector would be in line to adhere to a more vigorous re-planting programme.

'US sanctions on Iran, devaluation of the Russian rouble have all affected Ceylon Tea. Our tea will face challenges. It is up to us to find new markets. Blending is critical if there is to be progress.'

Prime Minister Ranil Wichremesinghe, Chief Guest at the Tea Exporters’ Association ( TEA), Annual General Meeting ( AGM), said the government would step in to modernize the tea industry.

He added - 'This would not mean the formal sector only would be identified for such improvement. Smallholders who are now major contributors responsible for about 75 percent production, would also benefit. How this would be done would be assessed and meaningful action taken to ensure holistic benefit to the industry.'

He exampled the wine industry, where countries not recognized as wine producers were in the wine trade. Their innovative trade options and quality improvement placed them at the forefront of wine producer countries. A clear example was China. 'China now produces good quality wines commanding world attention and consequently raised their reputation as a wine producing country. Similarly, Australia, New Zealand, were also not traditional wine producers, but currently they are also considered outstanding producers of wine. It is now time the tea industry here moves forward with new ideas holding sway over other traditional methods, he said.

'Tea was our major export earner. Tourism is moving forward and helping us meet our bills. We now have new challenges. We must look out for new markets, the Premier added.

'Progress we see around us, for instance China, Vietnam, Indonesia, India, were all countries who were behind us in 1960, he said.

‘The tea industry, is 150 years old. During this time the question that needs answers is what have you done to move the industry into the 21st century, Expansion of exports, is one such area that would need attention’.

Chairman TEA Jayantha Karunaratne, being re-elected to the Chair of the TEA, said, internationally the tea industry sustained growth of 5.5 percent last year. But such growth was not part of the tea indsusry here. James Taylor first planted tea in 1867. ‘We cannot rest on our laurels but move forward with innovation and foresight’.

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