Mabroc, another brand, which is now owned by a tea farming company, and is a member of the TEA has dropped its support to further liberalize imports.
Tea farming companies fear that the move will result in lower prices at Colombo auctions, though exporters point out that single origin or otherwise, no buyer pays a more than the next highest bidder to a producer at the auction.
Global commodity prices are now slumping from high seen last year. Oil, rubber, tea and palm oil have come off recent highs.Tokyo rubber prices fell to a 4-month low this week, and oil palm plunged to a 14-month low last week as the US dollar gained. Gold has dropped to a six week low against the US dollar. The Australian dollar also fell below parity with the US dollar.
Niraj de Mel, chairman of the Tea Exporters Association (TEA), which represents top exporters, said the government was still studying their proposal to lift restrictions on the import of orthodox teas for blending and re-export.
Reports that the government wants to ban import of teas and that the TEA's proposal to liberalise tea imports would destroy the image of 'Ceylon tea' were misleading, he told a news conference.
"Our association has no intention whatsoever of destroying this industry from which we make our living," de Mel declared.
"We fully support the assertion that the reputation of pure Ceylon tea be protected at all costs."
TEA members account for 83 percent of Sri Lanka's tea export volumes as well as export earnings. Exporters who see major brands blend and capturing market share in other countries says there is an opportunity for value to be added in Sri Lanka.
Major exporters say Jebel Ali in the Emirates is now exporting 45 million kilos of tea after adding value.
De Mel said the association was pressing for more liberal imports of teas from other origins to be able to increase volumes and market share, and single origin teas can continue to sell.
Only CTC-type (crush, tea and curl) teas used in tea bags, green teas and certain specialty teas are now allowed to be imported for blending and re-export.
Orthodox teas can be imported only by paying high import duty.
No consensus had yet been reached on the TEA's proposal, de Mel added.
Exporters faced demands from buyers for a greater variety of tea blends to meet varying consumer tastes.
All tea has to be blended to produce a similar tasting quantity before being retailed as the tea produced in different regions, in different factories, at different times of the year or on different days can taste different.
Blended and retail packed tea sells at twice or three times the auction price.
Restrictions on tea imports for blending had also led to several big exporters shifting packing operations overseas, de Mel said.
Allowing more tea imports would have also have spin-off effects on the wider economy, as creating a 'tea hub' in the island would generate more business and employment in other sectors like packaging transport, shipping and banking.
De Mel said the TEA's proposal is to increase the island total tea exports to around 400 - 500 million kilos a year from 320 million kilos now.
The TEA's proposal also considers the need for monitoring imports to ensure only quality teas were allowed in, he said. He said a false impression was created by opponents of liberalization that low quality tea would be imported.
"Our proposal naturally considers the requirement for controls - where we should not allow any kind of tea."
D Mel said the authorities like the Tea Board and Customs would have to monitor imports to ensure that they conform to the island's standards.
Anselm Perera, whose firm exports Mlesna branded tea said all countries produced higher and lower quality teas and Sri Lanka was no different.