Beyond in 2003

Sri Lankan Tea Exports is headed for a record high, with industry officials hoping for the total export quantity to exceed the landmark 300 million kilos.

Cumulative exports to end October reached 246 million kilos, 3 million kilos above last years total for the same period.

Officials feel there is much more to celebrate next year, saying that 2003 export figures would be much larger factoring in all the large contracts negotiated this year.

Total tea shipped out 2001 reached 293 million kilos, with handsome exports of value added teas to Libiya at the expense of neighbouring India. However, Sri Lanka failed to hold its edge over Libiy in 2002.

The loss wiped down the total percentage of value added exports for 2002 to 35 percent or 88 million kilos against the 97 million kilos or 40 percent posted last year.

Tea Bag exports however increased by a healthy 7 percent to 11.6 million kilos against 10.8 million kilos the previous year.

Asia Siyaka Commodity Brokers say ” this achievement is significant considering one of the biggest markets for Tea Bags exports – Russia had imposed discriminatory tariff with an aim to block imports in this form.”

However, lower tea prices helped counter higher duties but officials at Siyaka feel that by next year the establishment of higher minimum FOB levels by Russia could be the beginning of the end.

Given the negative outlook from the Russian front, officials say the Pakistan and Egyptian FTA will become increasingly significant.

The Pakistan FTA will be formalised by mid December when Pakistans former and present trade ministers visit Sri Lanka, Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Ravi Karunanayake said.

The Egyptian FTA is still conceptual and would commence early next year.

Meanwhile, tea production, officials say is on target to pass 300 million kilo mark, with the peak at 305.8 million kilos achieved in 2000.