He said the Rs. 1 billion Pure Ceylon Tea promotional fund set up this year will be a huge boost to tea exports with more awareness and demand for Ceylon Tea in the global market.
The Government set up the tea promotional fund to support indigenous brand builders and stimulate growth in exports. Tea export revenue last year was around US$ 1.3 billion and according to experts revenue this year is expected to reach around US$ 1.5 billion.
Experts said that money from the tea Cess Fund was not ploughed back to the industry and as a result adequate promotional activities were not there. The fund provided around Rs. 35 million for brand building.
Fernando said achieving US $ 1.5 billion export revenue from tea this year is not a difficult task provided there is sound marketing and adequate promotion of the Ceylon Tea brand in the world market."Sri Lanka has the potential to be a powerful player in tea exports with a US$ 5 billion market share in the next five years.Increase in value added exports and sound policies are crucial to garner a higher market share in global tea exports", he said.
The world tea export market is 1.5 billion kilograms of which Sri Lanka contributes around 300 million kg each year accounting for around 18 percent of the global market share.
Sri Lanka’s value added tea exports is around 35 percent of which around 20 percent comprises locally registered brands. A larger portion of Sri Lanka tea exports is yet in bulk form.
Experts opine that with improvement to processing and packaging technology and incentives to producers and exporters tea production and export income should increase substantially.
Sri Lanka is the world’s second largest tea exporter with nearly 90 percent of the production being exported.Until recently Sri Lanka used to be the largest exporter in the world. However, in recent times the country has faced stiff competition in retaining its position as the main source of orthodox black tea in the world.
Tea exporters fear that the Libyan crisis could have a crippling impact on export volumes that might decline sharply with less demand from the region. Experts are of the view that oil prices will surge into unprecedented levels if there is no early solution to the crisis in the Middle East.
“There are some ripples of the Libyan crisis on tea exports with disruption to port activities and financial transactions in the country”, Fernando said.
Tea consumption in the world has always been high and it has withstood all storms as a popular health beverage. Tea is consumed today in various flavours produced at varying elevations and climates across the globe.
China, India, Kenya, Sri Lanka and Vietnam are the top tea producing countries. China produced around 1,358.6 million kgs of tea in 2009. Tea production in Sri Lanka in 2009 was 289.7 million kgs.
Fernando said tea production depends on global prices and the weather. Tea production in Sri Lanka dropped by around nine percent in 2009 due to unfavourable and work stoppages by estate workers.
Labour strikes and unrealistic wage increases could stifle tea production and hamper growth in the industry. Wage increases should be in relation to production to achieve a win win situation in the industry.
Fernando said unlike in the past there is dignity of labour today. Improvement to housing, healthcare, education, transportation and incentives for workers are better than before.