By Chandeepa Wettasinghe
The tea blending hub policy, which spring up from time-to-time, will require wide stakeholder approval to be implemented, since Sri Lanka’s Plantation Industries Minister is worried what a wrong move would do to his legacy.
“There have been so many Plantation Industries Ministers in this country. There will be so many in the future as well, but I don’t want to go down in history as a guy who really negatively affected the tea industry by being risky,” Navin Dissanayake said.
He may also be taking into consideration of the legacy of his father Gamini Dissanayake, a past Presidential Candidate and Estate Development Minister, who contributed heavily to the development of the tea industry.
Dissanayake noted that the claims of those opposed to importation of tea for blending; that opening up the borders would affect Ceylon Tea prices globally, has to be taken seriously.
“The main contention is that this has an impact on the price, and surely, I as a minister cannot allow anything that will affect our price, because history’s going to judge me in a different way if I do that. The risk must be followed by the return, not by the hurt that might follow,” he said.
He said that the industry must make a consensual, educated decision on the industry—reflecting similar sentiments made several months ago when he requested the industry to conduct research into the matter—instead of fragmenting themselves and asking the government to solve the issue. “Now you’re trying to pass the buck. You know I make decisions.
You know I’m bold enough to make decisions. But when there are issues that divide the industry, I as a minister have to be balanced,” he said.
Those who are pro-tea blending point out that blended tea will not be branded with ‘Pure Ceylon Tea’ logo, and thus the prices for Ceylon Tea will not be affected.
The 2016 budget had called for Sri Lanka to become a tea blending hub.