SL hopeful Russia will lift tea ban soon | Sunday Observer

SL hopeful Russia will lift tea ban soon


Sri Lanka is to suggest the deployment of additional safeguards when a local Technical Evaluation team meets the Russian authorities on Wednesday (27) for a discussion, a top official said. Speaking to The Sunday Observer, Sri Lanka Tea Board Chairman, Rohan Pethiyagoda said the job of the Sri Lanka delegation is to clearly understand the Russian requirements and provide an assurance that the island’s compliance mechanism will reliably conform to their guidelines in future.

“The Russian authorities may not immediately say they will lift the ban at the first meeting but we are hoping that they will announce a decision by at least January 10th or 11th,” Tea Board Chairman Rohan Pethiyagoda said.

The Sri Lankan delegation led by the Director General of Agriculture, Rohan Weerakoon is due to fly to Russia tomorrow for discussions with officials from Russian agriculture safety watchdog, Rosselkhoznadzor, the Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance.

The local delegation will include the Tea Commissioner, Director of Tea Promotion, Director of Analytical Services of the Sri Lanka Tea Board, Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Plantation Industries, representative from the Attorney General’s Department and the Head of Quarantine from the Port of Colombo. “We will treat this as purely a technical issue and we may be able to obtain an indication of the stance of the Russian authorities during talks on Wednesday,” the Tea Board Chief said.

Pointing out that the Russian concern is more about how shipments of tea may be contaminated through, for example, insects in shipping containers, Pethiyagoda suggested that this could be addressed through for example, fumigation using methyl bromide.

“While this is an inexpensive treatment costing only about Rs 3,000 per container, we minimize its use because it is an ozone-depleting gas. ​ But you can be sure that we will pay much closer attention in future not only to the quality of our tea but also to the quality of transportation,” Pethiyagoda said.

Russia suspended Sri Lankan tea imports with effect from December 18, claiming that they found a larva of a khapra beetle (Trogoderma granarium) in a container of Sri Lankan tea. Russia is Sri Lanka’s second largest tea buyer importing around 11% of tea from Sri Lanka.

The Tea Board Chairman said Sri Lanka would not suffer any loss on export earnings if the temporary ban is lifted on or before January 15, 2018 since the year end is a slow time for the tea market.

“Most of Russia’s winter buying has already happened, and we do not as a tradition have a tea auction in the last week of the year.​ If there could ever be a good time for such a crisis, this is that time. But, that is not to say we are complacent. We will learn, reform and move on,” Pethiyagoda emphasised.