Monday, November 22, 2010

Tea export earnings nearing US $ 1.5 b

Gayan Kanchana

The total export earnings from tea will be close to US $ 1.5 billion this year. This was US $ 1.2 billion last year. This is a significant jump to achieve the US $ 5 billion target set by the Export Development Board (EDB) by 2020.

Plantation Industries Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe said Sri Lankan Tea reaches 130 countries today.

"Tea is the Sri Lankan main agricultural export commodity and accounts for around 15 percent of the total export earning of the country. It is the second large foreign exchange earner of the country," he said speaking at the 11th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of Tea Exporters Association (TEA) held in Colombo, last week.

The Minister said the Sri Lankan tea industry also contributes to maintain the socio-economic fabric of the country with more than a million people benefiting directly or indirectly from the industry for their livelihood and sustenance. TEA Chairman Jayantha Keragala said a prolonged drought in the first half of 2009 followed by trade union agitation and suspension of harvesting for a period, in the second half of that year, saw crops decline significantly and production falling by almost 10 percent to below 300 million kilograms for the first time in nearly a decade.

While this had a marked impact on export volumes, a severe shortage of supply drove up prices at the Colombo Tea auction to the highest ever recorded.

Notwithstanding the declines recorded in volumes, we have been rather fortunate in maintaining the foreign exchange revenue from tea exporters and, in turn, producers were able to enjoy good returns, especially the smallholders and the factory owners," he said.

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