Japan ups tea imports from Sri Lanka

August 16 (LBO) – Japan has upped its purchase of black tea from Sri Lanka in recent months, as quality of local tea improves and exporters comply with tougher standards.

Exports to Japan were up 32.28 percent to as at end April this year to 3558 kilos of black tea, just behind China as top tea exporter to Japan and ahead of India, Asia Siyaka Commodity Brokers said.

Japan recently raised concerns over chemical residue levels in tea produced here, with the local tea trade drawing up uniform declarations to clear cargo into Japan.

The uniform declaration would also do away with the need to get individual declarations for each and every export consignment of tea from Sri Lanka to Japan.

More estates have begun complying with regulations and volumes have increased, an official with Asia Siyaka said and local exporters can meet any further increase in demand.

Japan buys up nine million kilos of tea a year from Sri Lanka. Russia is Sri Lanka’s largest buyer followed by the United Arab Emirates and Syria.

Meanwhile, local tea production as at end June this year has seen a slight 3.27 percent drop to just over 162 million kilos of tea. Sri Lanka produced 314 million kilos end last year.

About 6.4 million kilos of tea was on sale at this week’s auction, about half of which were low grown teas. Sri Lanka grows tea in three elevations  high, mid and low grown.

Teas from some planting districts such as Uva also fetched higher prices, in some cases reaching 650 rupees a kilo levels for the first time this season, led by dry weather spells.

There was also widespread airmail inquiry for teas from the Eastern planting district, Asia Siyaka said, with more seasonal teas expected to be on offer for future sales.

Gross sale averages at the Colombo tea auction to date has been at 190 rupees a kilo levels, with high prices for high and medium grown teas.

Asia Siyaka forecasts the island’s year-end tea crop to be flat at 311 million kilos, based on second half production being the same as last year.

Tea, Sri Lanka’s single largest net foreign exchange earner, brought in 814 million dollars worth of sales in 2005