ME unrest affects local tea exports

Tea Board says turmoil has not affected trade
By Bandula Sirimanna

Sri Lanka’s tea exports to the Middle East have been affected by a drop in consumer buying on top of shipment issues owing to the present turmoil in many countries in the region, Tea industry officials said.
The overall impact came as a result of the crisis in Libya, Syria and Iran, they revealed.

The Sri Lanka Tea Board said this week that, despite the problems, exports to Iran, Iraq, Syria and Libya in the first half of 2011 rose by 6.5% to 38.3 million kilos, against 35.8 million kilos for the corresponding period in 2010. But, in a statement, it added, "Understandably, given the escalating hostilities in Libya, there has been a significant reduction of 3.7 million kilos or 63% (2.1 million kilos as against 5.8 million kilos during the corresponding period of 2010)".

The crisis was also explained in Parliament on August 23 by Minister of Plantation Industries Mahinda Samarasinghe. He told Parliament that Libya and Syria, two of the leading buyers of Sri Lanka tea, were among the countries that have been affected by unrest, while Iran, another major buyer, was suffering due to economic sanctions imposed by the West.

"Prices are stable, but the Middle East unrest is affecting us,” he said in response to a query raised by UNP Colombo District MP Ravi Karunanayake.

The Tea Board said, 55% of all tea exports from Sri Lanka go to the Middle East, Gulf and North African regions, and these consignments have continued to reach these traditional markets despite the prevailing environment.

However, a spokesman for the Shippers Council said several Sri Lankan tea containers dispatched in recent weeks to Tripoli have been held up in the port, and that, the situation in Syria is the same.

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