Sri Lanka tea trade sees gains from Russia WTO entry

Dec 20, 2011 (LBO) – Russia’s entry in to the World Trade Organization last week will enable high import duty on value-added tea to be reduced, creating better access for Sri Lankan teas, industry officials said. “Russia is our largest market for tea and we would like to increase value-added teas being sent to Russia and we are organizing ourselves to do that starting next year,” plantations industries minister Mahinda Samarasinghe said.

“WTO membership means Russia would over a period of time look at bringing down duty for value-added teas exported from Sri Lanka from a high of 20 percent at the moment to, hopefully, around 12.5 percent.”

Samarasinghe said he was not sure how long it would take and that it “may take about two or three years.”

Lower import duty on value-added teas would give Sri Lanka “with a much better playing field than what we’re enjoying at the moment,” he told the awards ceremony for the ‘Ceylon Speciality Estate Tea of the Year Contest’ held in Moscow to promote specialty Ceylon teas.

“We have to get ready to capitalize on the reduction of duty,” Samarasinghe said.

About 17 percent of Sri Lankan tea exports go to Russia.

Samarasinghe said Russia was an advanc