Highlighting the immense potential of Sri Lankan Tea, a veteran tea-taster and businessman advocated for a 'Tea Authority' comprising a small team of senior, successful private businessmen, pointing out that the politicians appointed to head the Plantations Ministry had no idea of the business.
Dilmah Tea Founder/Chairman, Merrill J. Fernando told shareholders that the tea industry in Sri Lanka, which has the capability to export US$ 5 billion a year, was in difficulty as a result of neglect and interference.
"Every possible abuse is in place, from plantations to exports," he said.
He pointed out the uncontrolled importation of cheap tea and said, "How such tea is exported under prevailing regulations is just a mystery that threatens the price of Ceylon Tea."
According to him, Ceylon Tea might suffer the same fate as Pepper if the authorities continue to ignore these fraudulent activities.
"All manner of abuse goes undetected by the authorities, although it is common knowledge to the public," he said.
He lashed out at the exporters pushing for a 'Tea Hub', saying that there were pundits pursuing free tea imports for their own benefit.
"Exports are dominated by traders whose only objective is profit; how and where it comes from are not their concern," he said.
"The integrity of Ceylon Tea must be protected, even if that protection is enshrined in the Constitution to protect our nation's assets from predatory traders," he said.
Further, he pointed out that the Government regulations framed to support the industry are archaic.
According to him, politicians appointed to head the Ministry do not possess any knowledge of this important, primary industry and seek advice and guidance from the industry without implementing existing regulations due to fear or favour.
However, any advice from entrepreneurs is suspect and rejected, while the institutions fully capable of advice and guidance remain dormant, he complained.
"Tea and Tourism are 100 per cent private sector operated and managed industries, and they perform very well on their own steam. If the application of Government regulations is also entrusted to them, expected revenues will be forthcoming without delay or abuse, as it is in the present," he said.