Sri Lanka plans tea hub, imports from India, China
Colombo, May 16 (IANS) Sri Lanka's tea exporters are lobbying for liberalized imports to expand the industry and make it into a tea hub by blending high quality tea from China, India and Kenya, an official said here Wednesday.
Sri Lanka's Tea Exporters Association (TEA), whose members export 83 percent of tea, insisted that a proposal to liberalize tea imports would not have negative impact on Pure Ceylon tea, a fear that has been expressed by some stakeholders, reported Xinhua.
TEA chairman Niraj de Mel said that Sri Lanka, which has the world's largest tea auction and sold the highest priced tea, was the best place for a tea hub that would import and blend different brands of tea.
"The government has plans to increase the current $11 billion exports to $20 billion by 2020. That means tea, as the country's highest foreign exchange earning crop, has to hit the $5 billion mark," he said.
De Mel pointed out that in 2011, tea exports earned $1.5 billion and it would be impossible to nearly triple earnings in eight years to meet the government target.
He noted that the TEA had been invited by Plantations and Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe to study the possibility of liberalizing tea imports, and a decision will be taken at the end of this year.
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