The Colombo Tea Traders’ Association (CTTA) on Monday urged the government to take speedy measures to resolve the current situation in the country and warned that, if there are no suitable solutions, the entire export industry in Sri Lanka would grind to a halt.
“The CTTA firmly believes that the government must give a hearing to the justifiable cries of the people. If these pleas are not heeded the whole country, including the industries, will come to a standstill resulting in the country losing much-needed revenue. This outcome will have a further dampening effect on the already-ailing economy of Sri Lanka,” it said in a statement.
It said that the industry firmly believes that if practical steps are taken immediately to transform the current situation, as a nation, “we can collectively contribute towards rebuilding the economy and putting Sri Lanka back on the world map, not only as being the home of Ceylon Tea but as a ‘paradisiacal’ haven for tourists and locals alike”.
While tea is currently
Sri Lanka’s fourth largest foreign exchange earner, it was some decades ago, the biggest forex earner and the CTTA statement comes with a plea that the government should resolve these issues before its exports sector suffers further.
It said plantation company estates, brokers, and exporters view with deep concern the prevailing situation facing the nation. The recent events, which took place in the aftermath of the island-wide protests, have only aggravated the position with disruptions to the normal life of the people and businesses.
The current environment does not augur well for the smooth functioning of commercial activities, and the tea trade is no exception, the CTTA said.
The tea industry, which employs approximately 10 per cent of the total population in all sectors of the value chain, contributes around US$1.3 billion annually by way of foreign revenue to the country’s coffers.
“It is pertinent to state that in the turbulent 2020 and 2021 when Sri Lanka was not spared from the COVID-19 pandemic, the tea industry functioned uninterruptedly to ensure the nearly 500,000 smallholder families received their incomes and a similar number of tea workers in the plantations their wages,” the statement said.
It said it is necessary that the policymakers do not make the mistake of not listening to the experts in the industry. Some of the population’s grievances are a result of the incorrect decisions taken by successive governments, mainly on agriculture, which has brought about the current grave situation in the country. These actions have led to the food shortages experienced at present.
“Despite the many appeals made, the tea industry was never heeded by the government of the day when making decisions to ban the use of specific essential agriculture inputs, including fertiliser. These actions have cost the country billions of US dollars, driving away loyal tea consumers to other tea-producing countries. The recent decision to ban the use of inorganic or chemical fertiliser has resulted in a drastic drop in production from the latter part of last year to date. Furthermore, it is needless to overemphasise the foreign exchange loss to the country due to a shortfall such as this,” the CTTA said.