Iraq, a leading buyer of Sri Lankan tea has urged authorities to strengthen the process with regard to the packaging, certification and shipping of teas to avoid adulterated tea reaching Iraq.
Iraqi Science and Technology Ministry’s Deputy Director General Dr. Sbah Azeez Hasan who is leading a special tea delegation from Iraq to Sri Lanka has showed the samples of adulterated Ceylon tea available for sale in Baghdad to Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen and Sri Lanka Tea Board officials.
“This is not a political issue between Sri Lanka and Iraq but concerns the implementation of a testing standard. Unlike political agreements, these standards cannot be waived,” Dr. Sabah Azeez Hasan said.
According to the Export Development Board (EDB), when it comes to marketwise distribution of Ceylon Tea exported in 2012, Iraq ranked at fifth place in 2012 with $82.95 million of tea imported from Sri Lanka.
Though Iraq ranks fifth, when it comes to total usage, Iraq ranks as the leading Ceylon Tea user country in the world, where more than 70 percent tea consumed in Iraq originated from Sri Lanka, making it a prime target for illegal tea mixing cartels operating in Middle East region.
“We also visited and inspected several tea manufacturing factories and plantations in Sri Lanka. We saw the waste (refuse) in these factories. Even during your tea manufacture, there is dust and big tea shreds (scraps) mixing. Therefore I think there is a problem with Sri Lanka’s tea. We do not like to see these ‘things’ since we as Iraqis, love Pure Ceylon Tea, using it for decades,” Dr Sabah noted.
To prevent adulterated tea reaching Iraq, the delegation proposed to ship only the well packaged bulk tea with stamping and a product certification from the Tea Board.
The delegation also voiced against the practice of exporting teas in open bags or packaging in unsealed containers.
Further, the delegation requested the teas and other products that are exported to Iraq be tested in government labs rather than private labs.
They further pointed out that the refused teas that are being exported to Iraq are not carried out as tea exports but under certain other product categories under different HS Code.