Sri Lanka Seeks Top Tea Export Status

Sri Lanka officials ended an international tea conference last week with a promise to return to prominence as the world’s largest tea exporter.

The small island country led the world in exports until 2006 and remains the fourth largest producer of tea. Sales last year exceeded LKRs 1.5 billion ($13 million) on volume of 328.3 million kg. This was down slightly from 2010 yields of 331.4 mkg, as reported in the Hindu Business Line.

Sri Lanka Plantation Industries Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe told conference attendees that the country's tea industry has recorded significant gains in the recent years and the government expects to record an important threshold in the local tea production in 2012.

The government has initiated various programs to promote the industry in foreign markets while developing the standards of the local industry. Sri Lanka is known for limiting its use of pesticides and herbicides and has many organic gardens. Russia and West Asia remain the biggest export markets but it is looking to China and the US for growth.

 “We cannot put all our eggs in one basket and we will be spreading our markets not to depend too much on one particular market or region,” said Sri Lanka Tea Board Chairperson Ms Janaki Kuruppu at the 20th session of the Food and Agricultural Organisation's Inter-Governmental Group on Tea held here.

Sri Lanka is also pushing for an international tea producers' forum to discuss issues of producer nations. This was formally proposed by Minister Samarasinghe at the inaugural session. While producers meet behind closed doors, as part of the inter-governmental deliberations, Samarasinghe wants the producer nations to have closer interactions.

The local tea industry marked its 145th anniversary during the conference.

Source: The Hindu Business Line