Sri Lankan factories using sugar in tea face prosecution
ECONOMYNEXT – Factories using sugar in the process of making Sri Lanka’s main agricultural export, Ceylon tea, will face prosecution with their licences suspended or cancelled now that scientists have established a baseline for sugar content, Plantation Industries Minister Navin Dissanayake.
“We strongly condemn this sort of adulteration. If factories get caught they will get no mercy from us,” he told a news conference. “I will not use ministerial power and give them any more reprieves.
“Don’t try to use political influence on me because we have issued red notices to them not to do it.”
Dissanayake said tea adulteration had become a “huge problem” in the industry which “reduces our tea quality.”
The Tea Board which regulates the industry will take extreme measures to control Ceylon tea contamination with sugar, he said.
Tea Research Institute scientists had studied the issue and come up with a baseline for sugar content in made black tea that is now accepted industrywide.
“Scientifically we can now prove it in court,” Dissanayake said. “Earlier it (the scientific baseline) was not there. Every time we raided a factory and caught someone, there was no baseline for the sugar content. Now it is there.
“Previously, every time we took someone to court, the legal process was not in our favour. Now even if they take us to court we can fight it.”
In May and June the Tea Board had raided 15 factories, after samples were taken from the Colombo auction and tested and traced to their manufacturing origins.
Factories were adding sugar in the manufacturing process to change the colour of made tea, which is bought on several characteristics, including appearance.
“The Tea Board is doing regular factory checks and we expect the problem may not occur in future,” Dissanayake said.
“It’s important we maintain the purity of Ceylon tea. Now our focus is on ensuring the sugar issue is controlled. The issue has been there for 20 years.”
If caught missing sugar to tea, factories face a three-month suspension, which means big losses, and if caught again their licences will be cancelled.