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Ceylon Tea Brokers say it’s growing stronger, “much like tea in hot water”



Chrisantha Perera warns of dangers in hasty implementation of chemical fertilizer ban

Ceylon Tea Brokers PLC. (CTBP), a company accounting for 14.77% of tea marketed by the country in volume terms and 15.28 percent in value terms has titled its annual report for 2020/2021 “Defying challenges, achieving growth.”

It says: “Our hard work has borne fruit, as we record a year of growth, inching up the numbers amid challenges, and much like tea in hot water, we will continue to grow stronger with time.”

In his chairman’s review for the year, Mr. Chrisantha Perera who has over 50 year experience in the tea industry, retiring as Chairman/CEO of Forbes and Walker after 44 years with that company, has said CTBP had done ‘exceptionally well’ in the year under review compared to the previous year amid the many challenges the country as a whole had to face.

He noted that the company achieving a much higher bottom line than in the previous year and growing its market share were special highlights for the period under review. Its after-tax profit was up to Rs. 107.53 million from Rs. 21.54 million a year earlier and it paid shareholders a dividend of 35 cents a share against eight cents the previous year.

Perera reported that tea production continued to be disappointing with a 21.6 million kilo (7.2%) decline from the previous year to 278.48 million kilos – the worst since 1997 – with low grown teas accounting for the largest deficit of 20 million kilos.

“Last year’s output was the lowest since 276.86 million kilos (produced) in in 1997,” he said. “The absence of fertilizer application for the greater part of 2019, the extremely hot weather during the first quarter of 2020 and more importantly, the disruption caused by the Covid 19 pandemic brought about the significantly low production in 2020,” he said.

Perera noted that over the last seven years, Sri Lanka’s tea production has been steadily declining and with total production almost 60 million kilos behind 2014. The low grown segment was the biggest loser with a 40 million kilo loss in this period.

The smallholder dominated low grown teas – accounting for nearly 75% of the green leaf harvest – is the most productive elevationally, strongly outpacing both high and mid-grown teas. With the country’s share of the global tea market now below five percent, Perera warned that this declining trend, if not arrested, will seriously affect the sustainability of producers, particularly smallholders.

“Adding to this, the continuously declining availability of ‘Ceylon Tea’ will negatively impact the marketing front, particularly in Middle Eastern countries and Russia, who between them account for over 60% of Sri Lanka’s exports, being compelled to look for alternate suppliers,” he said.

“However, at the time of compiling this report, a welcome recovery is evident with crop figures released for January to May 2021 recording a 134.7 million kilo gain, up 31.6 million kilos (30.66%) over the corresponding period last year. This includes a 34% improvement for the low grown segment, with the high and medium growns increasing 25% in each category.”

But Perera went on to say: “Be that as it may, the government’s recent proposal to switch from the use of chemical fertilizer to organic for all agriculture including tea with immediate effect will hamper plans to increase production.”

He warned that the proposed initiative could result in a short to medium term drop in quality of green leaf harvested and consequently the quality of manufactured tea.

Describing the proposed initiative as “laudable,” in the context of increasing global awareness towards a sustainable economy based on a triple bottom line of “People, Planet and Profits,’ a well thought out implementation plan over a 5-10 year period against an overnight change would have been prudent, he said.

Saying such a step can result in irreparable damage to the tea industry, and consequently the economy, Perera strongly recommended a scientific approach devised by experts in the subject and all associated stakeholder organizations in the plantation industry tasked to formulate the correct strategy.

He also said there appeared to be a mistaken notion relating to the increased Maximum Residue Levels (MRLs) occurring through use of chemical fertilizer. Their understanding was that increased MRLs in the final product occur predominantly from incorrect use of pesticides and weedicides.

The top shareholder of CTBP is Ashthi Holdings (Private) Ltd., a company related to Mr. WAT Fernando (30.4%) followed by Mr. WAT Fernando (26.8%), Jetwing Travels (Pvt) Ltd. (18.7%). Ms. NTMS Cooray (6%) Chrisantha Perera and his wife (1.9%) and related companies are among the largest shareholders.

The directors of the company are: Messrs. CPR Perera (chairman), RJN De Mel (deputy chairman), WAT Fernando (MD), DGW De Silva (Director/CEO), KHS Devapriya (former Director/COO), KAD Fernando (Director/COO), Ms. NTMS Cooray, Ms. HMS Perera, BRL Fernando, DH Madawala, HTD Nonis and Z. Mohamed.

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SL needs laser-like focus on IMF programme implementation: Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy



Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy, Former Governor

‘If it gets suspended, it would have pretty dramatic consequences’

by Sanath Nanayakkare

There are three most important priorities for Sri Lanka in the wake of the IMF Programme; implementation, implementation and implementation of the agreed upon benchmarks of the programme. Last thing we need to suddenly find is that we have gone off the track of the programme and it is suspended, Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy, Former Governor, Central Bank of Sri Lanka said on Friday.

He said so while giving the keynote speech at a Central Bank hosted webinar titled “What is next for Sri Lanka in the wake of IMF Programme?”

Deshal De Mel, Economic Advisor, Ministry of Finance, Murtaza Jafferjee, Managing Director, JB Securities, Bingumal Thewarathanthri, Chief Executive Officer, Standard Chartered Bank were the panelists at the forum where the moderator was Shiran Fernando, Chief Economist at the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce

The following are a few comments made by Dr.Coomaraswamy.

The IMF EFF has now been successfully negotiated. This is in some way the beginning. There is lot more to do. It’s time to start thinking about what happens next. A little under a year ago, there were acute shortages of the most essential good. There were long queues and one or two people passed away while in queue. Prices were skyrocketing and exchange rate was collapsing, inflation was spiking and the Central Bank had to push up interest rates. All this happened only a few months from where we are today. The fact that things have stabilized to a significant extent clearly is a very favourable outcome but actually there is no room for complacency because the stabilization has happened at a low-level equilibrium.

It has happened when the economy experienced a 7.6% contraction last year. It was better than what was anticipated by the IMF and the World Bank, but still it is a very sharp contraction. And we need to get to a situation where we have macro-economic stability with a growth rate of about 4%. There is a lot to be done for this. But this is a very commendable place to get to after all. The Paris Club comprising G7 countries has endorsed our efforts to restore debt sustainability. The non-Paris Club creditors such as India and China also have endorsed and supported our efforts too. So the largest countries and creditors are willing to support Sri Lanka to get back on track in terms of debt sustainability. So this is not a bad place to be.”

“IMF programme implementation has always been a weakness on our part. This time we have already done a lot as prior action but there is more as you would have seen from the documentation tabled in parliament including structural reforms and institutional reform. So we have to have laser-like focus on implementation and move forward with the programme. If the programme gets suspended, it would have pretty dramatic consequences. So we need to keep it on track. We can’t give up the absolutely compelling need for fiscal discipline. What is next for us is; discipline and making the needed economic policy and implementing what e have agreed to do. During our past IMF programmes, the issue was lack of implementation by the Sri Lankan authorities.

Earlier this week Dr. Chandranath Amarasekare, Executive Director at the CBSL arranged for the Irish authorities to brief Sri lankan authorities on the implementation unit set up in Ireland when the global financial crisis hit Ireland which led them to go into an IMF programme. Ireland was meticulous in the way they set up the implementation framework. They identified all the action that had to be taken and assigned parts of it to relevant government entities to implement them. Ireland is back on track now. We need to have the same degree of laser-like focus on implementing the benchmarks. We have to figure out what needs to be done and ascribe responsibility for each action and monitor

carefully how we are going about it. We have to make sue we are hitting all the targets and structural benchmarks as we go along. These are embedded in the IMF programme. Last thing we need is to suddenly find that we have gone off the track of the programme and the programme is suspended. That will constrain the inflows to the country and it will affect the confidence beginning to build up now. All that will get undermined if the programme gets suspended because we are not able to keep it on track. So the Implementation Unit will need a very good authority to reach out to any part of government and get things done. We need this Implementation Unit to be well-structured and running well. And it should have the authority of the President behind it,”he said.

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Exterminators PLC opens a training and R&D center



Exterminators PLC, Sri Lanka’s premier pest tech and environmental tech company, opened a 5,000 plus square foot training, research and development center to enhance the quality of service via in-depth innovation to create a circular economy inorder to meet the growing demand in environmentally sustainable public health pest management, agricultural pest management, livestock, plantation and landscape pest management, sanitation and disinfection services in Sri Lanka and emerging and developing markets. The facility includes simulated environments for training in pest management, termite management, mosquito management, sanitation and disinfection, health and safety for new recruits and continuous professional training and development for existing employees.

The company plans to provide training for international pest management professionals in emerging and developing countries as well as serve as a training facility for its strategic franchising partners in the region.

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SLT-MOBITEL ‘Hosting Cub’ for MSMEs enables critical infrastructure and value-added hosting services



Understanding the importance of supporting Micro, Small, And Medium-Sized Enterprises (MSMEs) to drive growth and efficiencies, SLT-MOBITEL, the National ICT Solutions Provider is offering its Hosting Cub – Shared Web Hosting service catering to vital hosting requirements.

SLT-MOBITEL provides hosting facilities for MSMEs with affordable pricing, easy expansion of MSMEs cyber presence and other value-added offerings via its Shared Hosting and Virtual Private Server (VPS) solutions.

The Shared Hosting proposal is offered as the most economical option available for hosting. The overall cost of server maintenance is shared, also catering to low traffic websites that do not require higher bandwidth such as smaller websites and blogs.

The Share Hosting solution is available via four levels – Stellar, Stellar Plus, Stellar Pro and Stellar Business. The ‘Stellar’ package 1 GB VSAN Disk Space to balance storage usage, monthly 20 GB Bandwidth, 2 Mbps speed, 10 websites allowed, secure connection through SSL, FTP Accounts to manage file transfers, Unlimited email accounts, Unlimited MySQL Database to manage data, Unlimited Sub Domains, Hosting in SLT’s state-of-the-art Data Centre and WordPress supported. The pack is priced at only Rs 7500 per annum.

Similarly, the Stellar Plus presents an enhanced package with 2 GB VSAN Disk Space, monthly 40 GB Bandwidth, approval of 15 websites in addition to all the other value-additions. It is priced at Rs 12,000 per year. The Stellar Pro delivers 3 GB VSAN Disk Space, monthly 100 GB Bandwidth and 30 websites allowed while the Stellar Business provides 5 GB VSAN Disk Space, monthly 150GB Bandwidth and 40 websites. All other features are also enabled. The costs for Stellar Pro and Stellar Business are Rs 16,500 and Rs 25,500 respectively, per annum.

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