Sri Lanka plantation privatization, branding behind export surge

March 18, 2008 (LBO) – The privatization of Sri Lankan tea estates and branding were largely responsible for the industry’s export earnings exceeding a billion dollars last year, a top business chamber said. The effectiveness of the Colombo tea auctions and storage and brokerage services also played their part, said a statement by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, which has been associated since its inception in 1839 with the industry.

However, it warned Tuesday that the record foreign exchange earnings should not be interpreted as enabling the industry to reap “abundant rewards’, saying high wage costs and poor productivity continue to be constraints.

The chamber said the tea industry’s net foreign exchange earnings are “extraordinarily high, with a minimal outflow” as over 95 percent of the resources used are indigenous.

“Until the relatively recent emergence of other major foreign exchange contributors, the tea industry sustained the economy of this country for many decades,” the statement said.

The tea industry supports a population of over one million, both directly and indirectly, in earning their livelihood.

The statement said that since privatization in 1992, following 17