Sri Lanka asks ‘friends’ to buy more tea

November 15, 2008 (AFP) – Sri Lanka, a key exporter of tea, has appealed to “friendly countries” to buy more of the brew to help the island weather the global financial crisis, officials said Saturday. The foreign ministry said ambassadors and envoys of Egypt, Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait and Qatar were briefed about Sri Lanka’s tea woes. A Palestinian representative was also present. Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama and senior officials of the tea board on Friday met envoys of main tea-buying countries and urged them to purchase more of the island’s green gold and help sustain auction prices.

“Sri Lanka is seeking the support of friendly countries who are principal buyers of Ceylon tea to remain active in the tea market to promote tea exports and to maintain price stability,” the foreign ministry said Saturday.

Tea, the island’s biggest agricultural export and money-spinner behind foreign remittances and shipments of clothing, is vital for the economy that is in the grips of a decades-old bitter ethnic conflict.

Colombo, which conducts the world’s biggest tea auctions, saw prices hit 4.26 dollars a kilogramme (2.2 pounds) in August before sliding to 2.19 dollars a kilogram