Women pick out tea leaves in Sri Lanka tea gardens
SRI LANKA, one of the world’s largest tea exporters, is considering blending a pricey tea with cheaper imported varieties for the first time to boost revenues, a top official said on Wednesday (May 9).
Sri Lanka Tea Board chief Janaki Kuruppu said they were studying proposals to allow imported teas to be mixed with the more expensive Sri Lankan tea, better known by the country’s former British colonial-era name “Ceylon”.
“We are carefully studying the proposals and the objective is to increase the overall revenue while protecting our brand image,” Kuruppu told reporters.
She said the blending operation could boost overall tea revenue which is one of the main foreign exchange earners for the country.
Since tea was introduced to Sri Lanka in 1849 by a Scotsman, it has been a primary export but companies abroad are known to blend it with cheaper teas from Kenya, Indonesia and China, and sell it for less.
Kuruppu said Sri Lanka needed to take a “realistic view” of the global market and capitalise on the lucrative blending operations without losing the country’s reputation as a source of highly aromatic tea.
Pure Ceylon tea is more expensive and is compared to the “single malt” of the whisky industry. An international blend would include Ceylon tea together with cheaper teas from several countries.
Kuruppu said any imports of tea for blending would be closely monitored to ensure high standards were maintained and that the reputation of the island’s tea industry was preserved.
Sri Lankasold 323 million kilos (710 million pounds) last year and earned $1.49bn (£92.66m), but Kuruppu said the country could substantially increase revenues through more value addition by way of blending.
Sri Lankan tea is used in international blends of multi-national companies which operate tea processing facilities in the Middle East and Europe.
Indian consumer goods giant Unilever had planned to set up a processing plant in Sri Lanka in the late 1990s but shifted to Dubai as Colombo did not allow the import of tea for blending, fearing that such a move would dilute the image of the local product.
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