TEA calls for IMport liberalization | Page 2 | Sunday Observer

TEA calls for IMport liberalization

The Tea Exporters Association (TEA) reiterated the need to liberalise tea imports which will help boost exports in value and volume by making Sri Lanka, a tea centre.

Exporters speaking at the 18th Annual General Meeting last week, said that they had been lobbying for the liberalisation of tea imports for over two decades but have failed to receive a favourable response from policymakers.

“We are confident that export revenue could be increased several fold from the current average of US$ 1.5 billion if import liberalization takes place,” TEA Chairman Jayantha Karunaratne said. Tea exporters are upbeat that given the favourable conditions and the momentum recorded so far this the year, export income would surpass the US$ 1.5 billion, recorded a few years ago.

However, the picture is not so rosy as the industry is divided over liberalization of tea imports, automation and mechanization.

“Those who are against liberalization must tell the industry clearly how they could sustain operations and be self-sufficient given the precarious state the industry is in,” former TEA Chairman Rohan Fernando said.

He said its time that the policy makers think of developing the trade or move into some other plantation sector.

Tea industry experts said many countries are ahead of Sri Lanka, which has slipped to the third position in tea exports in the world and the fourth in production. China which tops the list in production, produces 2.2 billion kgs, while India and Kenya produce 1.2 billion and 400 million kgs respectively. Sri Lanka produces, on average, around 330 million kgs.

In terms of exports, Kenya is currently ahead of Sri Lanka with around 380 million kgs followed by China - 320 million kgs. Sri Lanka exports around 300 million kgs of tea.

Exporters have also been urging the government to use the collected marketing levy of over Rs. 5 billion for promotional and marketing effectively without further delay and abolish further collection of the levy.

“We have been lobbying for the removal of all cess from tea exports to be more competitive in the global market,” Karunaratne said.