By Sandun A Jayasekera
The first Colombo tea auction after a lapse of two weeks will be held on Friday with the government being determined to continue tea exports despite the COVID-19 outbreak, Plantation Industries and Agricultural Exports Minister Dr. Ramesh Pathirana said yesterday.
He told Daily Mirror that the government expected a 20% dip in tea exports or a loss of about US$300 million or Rs.54 billion due to the viral infection.
“There is a good market and a good price for ‘Ceylon Tea’ and other tea products of Sri Lanka these days in the global market. Therefore, we are doing our best to keep the tea industry afloat despite the setbacks brought by the coronavirus infection. The average price of a kilogram of tea is around Rs.585,” the minister said.
Russia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, China, Saudi Arabia and the US are Sri Lanka’s main tea buyers. In terms of the US Dollar equivalent, based on the respective weighted average exchange rates, export earnings amounted to US$ 1.43 billion in 2018 in comparison to $1.53 billion in 2017, $1.26 billion in 2016, $1.34 billion in 2015 and $1.63 billion in 2014. He said the drop in tea exports in 2018 was mainly due to the drop in production as well as the political and economic uncertainties globally such as economic sanctions imposed on Iran.
The minister said the production and exports of tea remained resilient but the rubber cultivation and rubber exports were badly hit as the demand for natural rubber had dropped in the global market.