Jan 10, 2018 (LBO) – Russian Federation has vowed for bigger trade with Sri Lanka, calling to dispatch a strong delegation to the trade meet scheduled in Moscow this year.
Sri Lanka’s total trade (both imports and exports) with the Russian Federation which was at 435.83 million dollars in 2015, declined to 381.71 million in 2016.
In 2015, Russia was the topmost buyer of Ceylon Tea at 156.65 million dollars, and the second leading buyer was Turkey. However, in 2016, Russia became the second largest buyer of all types of Ceylon Teas.
According to the Department of Commerce, nearly 74 percent of Sri Lanka’s exports to Russia in 2016 was Ceylon Tea at a value of 143 million dollars. Over the years, total tea exports to Russia has shown a declining trend.
“Yes, we imposed a ban on Ceylon Tea, but it was nothing to do with our asbestos but was only about an insect found in a Tea package from Sri Lanka,” Ambassador of the Russian Federation Yury Materiy said.
He was meeting the Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen at his office on 9 January.
“If we connected Ceylon Tea exports issue with Sri Lankan imports of Russian asbestos as widely speculated, then our tea ban would have to continue even now, isn’t it.?”
However, Sri Lanka has been among the leading buyers of asbestos in the world. In 2015, the four leading asbestos importers in the world were India, Indonesia, China and Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka absorbed 6 percent of global asbestos imports in 2015. According to the Department of Commerce, ‘Iron & steel’, ‘wheat’ and ‘asbestos’ have been the three leading imports from Russia to Sri Lanka in recent years.
“We are not speaking about asbestos in general but only about Russian Chrysotile which is not harmful. Russian workers working in the industry for the last thirty years are fine, no one reported to have had cancer,” Materiy said.
“There are many workers who handle chrysotile in the mines with bare hands, and they are fine. If you decide to import chrysotile from us, we will be very happy.”
Sri Lanka’s recent asbestos imports from Russia has been at low levels and has shown a declining trend 33.87 million US dollars in 2014, 27.92 million in 2015 and 28.80 million in 2016.
From January to August this year, Sri Lanka’s asbestos imports from Russia was only 13.57 million US dollars.