The proposal by the Tea Exporters Association (TEA) to set up a tea hub in the country has not been taken seriously by law makers, a top official of the association stated.
This strategy presented by the TEA was to increase the value of tea exports from US $ 1.5 billion to US $ 5 billion by 2020, through the setting up of the tea hub.
“Our members are of the view that their opinions are not considered when policy decisions are made,” TEA Chairman Rohan Fernando said, citing recent attempt to increase the tea export cess as well.
Calls to create a tea hub by the majority of exporters, who want the laws of the country amended to allow imports of teas of other origins, had been made since early 2010. Those teas were to be blended and packaged in Sri Lanka and exported.
Some producers and exporters argue that free imports of multi-origin teas either from Vietnam, Kenya, India and China will adversely affect the Ceylon Tea brand and millions of workers employed in the industry while others feel there is a huge potential for a tea hub which would bring in much needed foreign exchange into the country.
According to Fernando, the membership of the TEA accounts for over 85 percent of the country’s tea export volume and revenue.
He f urther pointed out that there are two main segments in the tea industry, the plantation industry and the export sector adding that until now parliamentarians considered these two segments as one and addressed all issues with regard to them purely from a plantation perspective.
“The hardships silently endured by the exporters are overlooked by the decision makers,” he said.
He made these remarks at an interactive session between the Tea Exporters Association (TEA) and certain key policy makers.
Meanwhile International Monetary Fund (IMF) resident representative Dr. Koshy Mathai observed that deliberations on the proposed tea hub should continue as businessmen must have price differentiation options.
“Sri Lankan export earnings did not show any change to previous years and more value addition is needed,” he said.
Dr. Mathai further noted that tea is a key industry in exports and advised that there could be downsides to the move as well as some overseas buyers may doubt the quality of pure Ceylon tea exports.