- Minister warns noncompliance could lead to license cancellation
- Reputation of Ceylon tea at stake
- Says tea not facing crisis but future of rubber industry bleak
Plantation Industries Minister Navin Dissanayake warned yesterday that stern action would be taken against tea producers at all levels who fail to comply with Government instructions to stop adding sugar during the production process.
Speaking during the Committee Stage Program of Budget 2019, the Minister said that legal action will be taken against those who violate the Government order, and their licenses too will be cancelled.
“We have scientifically identified the minimum sugar content in tea. The adding of sugar to tea by certain tea producers during the manufacturing process is a serious violation, which should not be allowed. We should make every effort to protect the reputation of Ceylon Tea,” he said.
Minister Dissanayake said the tea industry is not in a crisis and will not end in ruins. “It is true that there are certain issues in the tea industry. When I took over this Ministry, tea production was at Rs. 260 million. In 2018, our tea production rose to Rs. 303 million. The highest tea production was recorded in 2014 which was Rs. 340 million. It would be great if we could reach that same level. The tea industry has been changing since the ’70s. Currently, the Government holds only 20% of the tea industry while the private sector holds 80%. And 75% of the tea production comes from the tea smallholders, which is a considerable achievement,” he added.
The Minister admitted that Ceylon Tea’s ranking in the international tea market has fallen to fourth place. “We were in the third place. First was India, followed by China. Kenya was the fourth. Now Kenya has advanced to third place. In fact, Kenya is our competitor. We can’t hope to reach India or China’s level, but we can compete with Kenya. In the case of India or China, the majority of tea produced in those countries is consumed by them,” he said.
The Minister was less optimistic about the future of the rubber sector in the country, and said rubber producers are facing a bleak future and needed Government intervention.
“The Government assists the rubber industry by giving concessions, but for how long can we keep doing so? There has to be a cut-off point. The rubber prices are regulated every 12 years. Now we are experiencing a very low price for rubber. But we hope the prices would increase in the future. The rubber production in 2017 was Rs. 83 million and in 2018 it was Rs. 82 million.”
Minister Dissanayake will be visiting Hynan in China during the latter part of April to discuss rubber exports to and development in collaboration with China.