Sri Lanka tea exporters press for import liberalisation

Jan 06, 2010 (LBO) – Sri Lankan tea exporters are pressing for liberalisation of tea imports for blending and re-export, saying it could help improve value-addition in the island and expand markets. Jayantha Keragala, chairman of the Tea Exporters Association, said exporters could increase earnings if more imports are allowed for blending and value-addition.

Imports of tea into Sri Lanka, a major export origin, is restricted because of opposition by producers who fear imported teas could reduce prices for their own product at the Colombo auctions.

But Keragala said exporters understand the concerns of producers and are sympathetic, as they themselves depend on tea cultivators for their exports.

He said exporters advocate freeing up tea imports with strict safeguards to ensure domestic producers of Ceylon tea are not adversely affected.

He suggests having a free trade zone like that proposed in a new port being built in Hambantota on the south coast where tea imports and blending could be done.

The government has said it will issue a request for proposals soon for the private sector to set up businesses in the new port, including warehousing operations.

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