Russia restricts Lanka tea over beetle scare Top-level delegation off to Moscow

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By 2017-12-16

By Ravi Ladduwahetty

The Government will send a top public/private sector delegation to Moscow in a bid to re-negotiate tea exports following a temporary restriction on all Sri Lankan agricultural products, including tea to that country.
This follows the finding of a Khapra beetle in one consignment which was exported from Sri Lanka to Russia.
"We will have to send a top level delegation next week to negotiate with the Russian Government at the...... highest levels," Chairman of the Sri Lanka Tea Board Dr. Rohan Pethiyagoda told Ceylon Today.
He also said that the details of the exporter who had shipped this consignment were yet unknown as it was barely 24 hours since the discovery was made.

"We are trying our best to resolve this problem as we cannot afford to lose that market and we cannot pursue further exports until the matter is solved," he added.
"We have to meet the Russian Government, find out their concerns and then provide them with firm assurances that there will not be any such occurrences in the future," he said.

Contact has also been made with Sri Lanka's Ambassador in Russia Dr. Saman Weerasinghe to get more details.
Meanwhile, Chairman of the Tea Exporters Association Jayantha Karunaratne told Ceylon Today that the matter was being handled by the Tea Board and all have been informed, including Minister of Plantation Industries Navin Dissanayake and even Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

He said that there was also the possibility of settling this issue amicably, although it is yet to be established if the beetle was discovered in bulk tea consignments or packets.
Karunaratne, who is also the Chairman/Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Imperial Teas (Private) Limited, also said that he had got in touch with his staff in Moscow to determine as to who was responsible. A Moscow datelined Reuters report on Thursday stated that Russia had placed a temporary restriction on imports of all agricultural products from Sri Lanka, including tea, from 18 December.

The Russian agricultural safety watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor said on 14 December that it had taken the decision to impose restrictions after it had found an insect, known as the Khapra beetle, in one consignment of tea imported from Sri Lanka.
Tea from Sri Lanka accounts for 23 per cent of Russia's tea market, with other supplies coming from India, Kenya, China and Vietnam, the head of the Rusteacoffee association, Ramaz Chanturiya was quoted as saying by RIA news agency.
Members of an association of Russian tea producers, Rusteacoffee will ask Rosselkhoznadzor to resume tea imports from Sri Lanka but with tougher controls, he added.

Russia imported 141,300 tonnes of tea worth USD 436 million in the first 10 months of 2017, according to customs data, according to reports.

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