The ban imposed by Russia on Sri Lanka’s tea exports is not a development that took place abruptly. Rather it was brought to the Sri Lankan Government’s notice in July this year, former Ambassador to Russia Udayanga Weeratunge said. He added that the United States, with whom Sri Lanka fosters amicable diplomatic ties, will not come to the island’s rescue at a time of an economic crisis.
However, the Sri Lankan Government had not taken any measures to address the issue……with regard to Russian Customs discovering insects in Sri Lankan tea.
“Our exports to Russia didn’t require quarantine certificates. However, four labs at the Russian Customs analyse the agricultural goods that are imported, prior to releasing them. The incumbent Russian Ambassador to Sri Lanka is fluent in Sinhalese and considers Sri Lanka his second home. The Government spends about Rs.1.5 to 2 billion to maintain the Sri Lankan Embassy in Russia. However, the Government didn’t utilise these resources to solve the tea related issue. In fact there is also a Sri Lanka Tea Board in Moscow which turned a blind eye to the quality of the tea exports. The ban is being imposed when the need for exports is high. This will adversely impact our economy,” he said.
Weeratunge went on to note that the tea containers, albeit owned by a Sri Lankan company, is registered with the Turkish Government. He added that this is not a coincidence. Elaborating further, he added that the insects were actually in cardboard cartons (used for tea packaging purposes) which had been in the same container. He added that the Russian media has broadcast about the latest development on Sri Lankan tea exports and Russian public opinion is not in favour of Sri Lankan tea.
“Due to this, the negative economic impact Sri Lanka would face is immeasurable. There are 83 containers held by Russian Customs. However, the Sri Lankan Embassy in Russia has not made any request to release these. The Government will have to pay Rs 41.5 million to release these containers,” he said.
Speaking to Ceylon Today United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UPFA) Parliamentarian Namal Rajapaksa stated that the Government should interfere immediately and investigates as to what has happened to result in a tea embargo. He added that the Government has to make sure that the tea industry will not suffer due to the embargo on tea exports and all other agricultural products.
“The government has to investigate without a bias. Tea is one of our main exports and 23 per cent of tea is exported to Russia.
With the Middle East being unstable and certain other countries to which we export tea have reduced exports, mainly due to price factors, the Government has to give priority to this,” he said.