Europe lifts restrictions on Sri Lanka’s cinnamon exports, following new standard

Oct 19, 2006 (LBO) – The European Union has lifted year long restrictions on Sri Lanka’s cinnamon exports, following approval of a new standard for the spice.

The disagreement stemmed from sulphur residue levels in Sri Lankan shipments, with the EU not having a fixed standard on allowable levels, until now.

“Exports to Germany came to a standstill but Spain being a main market in the EU was still importing cinnamon from us and most of the other buyers who agree with the limit on Sulphur are placing orders now,” Sarada de Silva Chairman of the Sri Lanka Spice Council told LBO.

The new World Health Organisation approved standard for sulphur dioxide residues is fixed at 150 milligrams per kilo of cinnamon, with Sri Lanka well within those limits, de Silva says.

Cinnamon in Sri Lanka undergoes a fumigation process using sulphur, which gets absorbed into the product.

“The fumigation process has been used for generations. The issue was that the EU has a zero ppm (parts per million) sulphur dioxide law for cinnamon,” de Silva said.

“We presented matters to the Codex, along with Department of Commerce in Sri Lanka. The resolution takes time to become law and it will be, probably by the end of this year” Chairman said.

Sri Lanka is the single largest exporter of cinnamon in the world at 10,000-12,000 tonnes per year, with Mexico, the United States and Colombia being the main buyers.

The island has well over an 85 per cent share of the world market, with prices also peaking in August to September this year.

Cinnamon prices have seen a 25 percent spike in prices in the first eight months this year to range between two to nine dollars a kilo for all grades.

“The prices increased mainly due to shortage of cinnamon since we do not have enough cinnamon peelers” de Silva said.

The price hikes have led to a decline in sales in October since the importers and consumers have reduced consumption, he added.

Cinnamon quills, which look like cigars, are rolled from the bark of the cinnamon tree, which takes up to two and a half years to get to point it can be harvested.

The industry supports the livelihood of over 70,000 smallholder cinnamon growers in the southern province where about 30,000 hectares (74,000 acres) of land is under cultivation.

The craft of peeling is handed down over the generations but current peelers have been unwilling to teach outsiders as it could mean a decrease in their lucrative income.