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A high powered Sri Lankan team will lobby Russian authorities for more favourable tariffs for local value added tea exports.

The team headed by Minister of Plantation Industries endash Lakshman Kiriella will cover Russia and Ukrain in late September to help prop up falling value added tea exports to the region.

Industry analysts say value added tea exports to the continent have been falling steadily since 1999 as Russian authorities try to build their own value addition industries.

“This seems to be in line with their policy of encouraging the import of teas in bulk and doing the value addition at that end” , one exporter explained.

In line with the strategy Russia announced earlier in 2003 that it was increasing duties on tea bags from current levels of 0.4 percent to 0.8 percent per kilo while duties on bulk tea stayed the same at 5 percent.

Total tea exports to the region at 29.8 million kilos million kilos accounted for about 16 per cent of total shipments in 2002, the largest market for Ceylon tea.

Value added accounts for less than 45 per cent of exports down from close to 50 per cent in 1999.

Meanwhile, customs data, Russian tea imports during the first four months of 2003 were down 4.3 per cent at 54,000 tonnes against 56,400 tonnes the previous year.