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Bad news for tea industry as auction prices slide



by Steve A. Morrell

Brokers reported last week that the drop in tea prices was bad news for the industry, which was doing reasonably well in recent months.

Forbes and Walker said in their weekly tea market report that after ten months of buoyant prices, last week’s auction prices declined by Rs. 20 to 30 per kilo.

The depreciation of the rupee against the dollar, now at Rs. 202.04, was also partly instrumental for the price decline. The anticipated crop boost after Easter and the Sinhala and Tamil New Year holidays was attributed to the dip in auction prices as leaf quality is considered poor due to the pause in plucking due to the intervening holidays, brokers said.

The Forbes and Walker report further said teas from Western slopes were badly affected prices slumping by as much as Rs. 30 to 50 per kilo.

John Keells Holdings (JKH) Tea Market report said Iran, Russia and CIS countries were active in Colombo last week, with Turkey and Libya also chipping in as buyers at the Colombo auctions but in limited quantities.

Asia Siyaka (AS) weekly Tea report also confirmed that Colombo was influenced by the vicissitudes of the dollar. The currency depreciation in Turkey, Syria, and some Middle East destinations also added to price declines in Colombo. Indicated markets reduced their buying as they were unable to settle their bills because of currency fluctuations.

Market conditions were unstable with buyers adopting restraint rather than being enthusiastic over the anticipated improvement in the market, the report further said.

In addition, the decline in the US market end 2020, although the US was not considered a major buyer, influenced a telling quotient for demand for Ceylon Tea.

Ceylon Tea exports to the US from January to November 2020 worked out to 5.4 MT, which placed Sri Lanka in third position behind Argentina (34.1 MT) and India (12 MT).

Ceylon tea exports to the UK, which was our major export destination before plantations were nationalized and British interests withdrew, is now barely 1% of the British market. UK is now dominated by imports from Kenya, which exports around 62.9 MT annually (56.70%).

The auctioned quantity last week was 5.6 million kilos. Production by end March 2021 was 71. 4 million kilos. In the corresponding period last year, (2020), production was 65.3 million kilos, with a relative marginal crop increase.

Nuwara Eliya BOP/BOPF was in demand, and price appreciation was encouraging. Prices were maintained at an escalated level of Rs, 30 to Rs, 40 per kilo, according to the report.

Low grown Tippy teas were also in demand although quantities were limited. They fetched prices ranging from Rs. 2,100 to 2,300 per kilo.



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India Covid crisis hits work at its biggest ports as risk to trade grows



(Bloomberg) — India’s devastating Covid-19 crisis is threatening operations at some of its biggest ports, raising concern the action could trigger shipping delays that reverberate through global supply chains.

Karaikal Port in southern India invoked force majeure until May 24 after operations were “severely affected” from the pandemic, according to a notice on its website. The terminal, which claims to be India’s biggest non-state port, handles coal, sugar and petroleum among other commodities. Gopalpur port in Odisha has also declared force majeure, according to IHS Markit.

The situation may echo global trade disruptions seen last year after virus restrictions slowed shipments into China. While India accounts for only fraction of the global trade that China does, any delays in offloading vessels and releasing them to their next destination could create supply chain bottlenecks.

India has 21.9 million tons of cargoes scheduled to arrive this month but with labor shortages and force majeure at some ports, many of the vessels could see discharge delays, according to IHS Markit associate director Pranay Shukla. That may have a knock-on effect on scheduled loadings at the exporting countries.


Cargo movement at Visakhapatnam Port, one of India’s major marine terminals, is also partly affected after the local traders’ body announced force majeure in the port area until May 19, according to G. Veeramohan, president of the Vizagapatam Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

State-run refiner Hindustan Petroleum Corp., which uses the Visakhapatnam port to import crude oil, is unaffected as it uses an offshore mooring facility for unloading tankers, Chairman Mukesh Kumar Surana said.

Large parts of India are under lockdown by provincial governments that are reeling from surging infections amid a shortage of vaccines and medical infrastructure such as hospital beds and oxygen. The stay-at-home orders are constraining the movement of people and materials to and from the country’s ports, even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government resists a nationwide lockdown.

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Amãna Bank PBT up by 20% in Q1, records successful quarter in credit growth



Amãna Bank continued to showcase strong resilience amidst economic challenges in Q1 2021, achieving a 20% YoY growth in Profit Before Tax. It is noteworthy that the 20% growth is achieved in comparison to a robust pre-Covid performance made in Q1 2020. Accordingly, PBT in Q1 2021 reached LKR 217.1 million compared to the LKR 180.2 million recorded in corresponding period. This quarter also saw the Bank recording its best ever quarterly achievement in Customer Advances, which significantly grew by 10% or LKR 6.1 billion in value.

Owing to its advance growth well supported by a healthy financing margin of 3.7%, the Bank’s Net Financing Income grew by 10% YoY to close the quarter at LKR 892.0 million. Net Operating Income after accounting for impairment closed at LKR 934.2 million. As an outcome of the Bank’s ongoing effort to contain costs, which resulted in a 7% reduction in Operating Expenses in comparison to Q1 2020, the Bank recorded an 18% YoY growth in Operating Profit before VAT on Financial Services to reach LKR 308.8 million. The Bank’s aggregate tax contribution of LKR 178.1 million for Q1 accounted for 58% of the Bank’s Operating Profit before all taxes.  Profit After Tax for the same period closed at LKR 130.6 million.

The Bank’s customer deposits grew by LKR 4.2 billion or 5% during the quarter to close at LKR 87.7 billion. The growth in customer deposits was achieved whilst maintaining a healthy CASA ratio of 45.7%. The Bank’s customer advances closed the quarter with a value of LKR 68.7 billion compared to 2020 ending position of LKR 62.6 billion. Having crossed the LKR 100 Billion milestone in Total Assets last December, the Bank went on to further grow its Total Assets by 6% to reach LKR 106.5 billion as of 31 March 2021.

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Sampath Bank partners with SDB Bank to offer greater operational efficiencies through cash management solutions



Sampath Bank PLC recently entered into a strategic partnership with SDB Bank whereby customers of SDB can gain access to Sampath Bank’s branch network and cash/cheque deposit kiosks, enabling greater convenience and accessibility to new services, thereby driving greater financial inclusion. This partnership goes on to showcase how the convergence of a licenced specialized bank and a licenced commercial bank can create synergies, in line with the Central Bank of Sri Lanka and Government’s vision of consolidation within the banking industry.

The agreement, signed at the Sampath Bank Head Office in Colombo, seeks to develop a long-term partnership between both banks and their customers with Sampath Bank playing the role of a secondary participant to SDB Bank for SLIPS and CEFTS Settlements as the first phase of the Cash Management Solution (CMS). As a truly progressive financial institution, Sampath Bank has always sought to form key alliances that deliver value to Sri Lankans across the island and will seek to replicate this model across several industries and verticals. This forms the backbone of the Bank’s long-term vision for its Cash Management function, whereby optimization of processes will be driven, leading to gains to its bottom line.

The key merits of this partnership are that SDB Bank customers will now have access to Sampath Bank’s branch network comprising 228 branches including 13 Super Branches, 465 cash deposit kiosks, allowing them to carry out specific banking services such as cash/cheque depositing and loan repayments, among others. SDB Bank will benefit by being able to offer its customers an entirely new portfolio of modern banking products and services, thus creating greater customer satisfaction and loyalty, while Sampath Bank will be able to reach hitherto untapped customer markets, helping businesses and individuals in those areas to grow.

Speaking about the partnership Halin Hettigoda, Head of Deposit Mobilization, Sampath Bank PLC, said, “We are very proud to enter into this historic agreement with SDB Bank and congratulate them on the bold steps taken to create powerful operational synergies and an enhanced value proposition for their customers. Furthermore, the fact that they were so willing to partner with us, despite Sampath Bank being a larger operator, speaks volumes to the trust and confidence they have in us and the strength of our relationship.”

Thilak Piyadigama, CEO, SDB Bank, said, “This extension of our long-standing relationship with Sampath Bank will offer several benefits to our customers including centralization and improved management of payments and collections together with improving returns on liquidity. We are very excited about the potential of this innovative solution which will allow us to take that next step of delivering higher value services to all customer segments while streamlining our processes for the convenience of our employees.”

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