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Despite Covid-19 it was ‘business as usual’ for SL’s tea industry

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By Steve A Morrell

Consultant Tea Board Promotions and former Director, Tea Board, Hasitha De Alwis, said Sri Lanka is better known as the origin of Ceylon Tea.

He said on his travels to many parts of the world, when asked where he was from, he replied ‘Sri Lanka’. However, people most didn’t recognize his origins, but when he said he was from the country that produced Ceylon Tea, they knew where he came from.

Speaking as the chief guest at the fourth Annual General Meeting of the Sri Lanka Association of Non Vessel Owning Container Carriers Agents (SLANA), he noted that the strength of the Ceylon Tea brand persisted throughout its 150 year history.

Despite the Covid-19 disruption to commercial activity, experienced worldwide, Sri Lanka’s tea industry continued in an atmosphere of ‘business as usual’, he said.

Apart from a two-week spell of recalibrating options, usual tea auctions resumed. Tea exports to routine destinations continued with no interruptions and the deserved continence of normality was swiftly restored. The cry–out system is now replaced by an electronic mode for bids for such consignments. The industry’s resilience to disruption was fully endorsed and even during the second world war, the tea industry in the country continued with no interruption, De Alwis further said.

Forex earned from tea amounted to around US$ 1.5 billion. The industry is directly responsible for the employment of about one million people. Additionally, those indirectly in employment and dependent on the industry also numbers about one million, In effect, two million persons, or about 10 percent of the population are dependent on tea, he outlined.

Leading buyer countries importing Ceylon tea include, Iraq, Kurdistan, Turkey, Russia, Iran, Libya, China, Azerbaijan, the UAE, Dubai and Japan. Additionally, value added Ceylon Tea is also exported to 180 countries worldwide, including the US, he continued.

“Three hundred million kilos or 300,000 metric tons of tea are exported to these countries each year”, he elaborated.

Although, tea is not the main foreign exchange earner any more, its dependent factor to the economy is acknowledged and accepted as the net leading earner and the only indigenous commodity that is self-reliant generating valuable forex, de Alwis stressed.

Chairperson, SLANA, Harsha De Silva, in his annual address to members said although the Covid-19 pandemic adversely affected the economy over the past seven months, there is gradual recovery now.

The number of containers lying idle in the port runs into thousands. However, as requested by the authorities, members of SLANA were able to convince the respective Non Vessel Operator Common Carriers and principals to secure demurrage waivers, discounts in demurrage charges and increase the number of free days.

He said about 45 members of SLANA visited the Hambantota Terminal last year, which was well received.

He also referred to the salutary services rendered by Captain Rajendran.

Secretary, Swabha Wickramasinghe proposed the vote of thanks.



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JVP accuses EC of conspiring to delay LG polls

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By Saman Indrajith

JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake, MP, has told Parliament that the Election Commission and its Chairman are collaborating with the government to postpone the local government elections.

Participating in the Third Reading stage debate on Budget 2023, on Friday, MP Dissanayake said that as local government bodies should be reconstituted before March 20 2023, the Election Commission had to publish a gazette calling nominations by late December or early January.

“The EC has the authority to do so. It has sought the Attorney General’s opinion on some matters. There is no need at all for it to seek the AG’s advice,” he said.

“This is a conspiracy. The Elections Commission can publish the gazette even tomorrow. It is clear that the Elections Commission is collaborating with the government,” he said.

Dissnayake said that Election Commissioner Nimal Punchihewa’s impartiality was in question. “We know where Punchihewa worked before and at what party office. We know the governments and persons he has worked with closely. He is not an independent person.”

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Diana wants bars open 24/7

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By Saman Indrajith

State Tourism Minister Diana Gamage says liquor outlets should be kept open longer if the country wants to boost tourism.Participating in the Third Reading stage debate on Budget 2023 on Friday, State Minister Gamage said: “We have to keep these places open 24/7. I have spoken about it many times. Liquor is the highest tax earner in the country. In this paradise, we are closing bars after 11pm. Foreigners in hotels can’t get any alcohol if they need, because all the places are closed.

We need to keep this country open 24 hours. Like Singapore and other countries, people must have entertainment.”

“I talk about the night life, and when I talked about that earlier many criticized it and saw it as a big sin. That is ones who are incapable of understanding it,” she said.

“What we call night life is actually a night economy. All the countries in the world have developed because of night economy. These countries get 70 percent of their income from the nigh economy. They only get 30 percent during the day time. We have to develop a night economy in this country. That will earn 70 percent of the income. Only that can develop this country.

“We can do that. And also our museum, that closes at 5 pm. In other countries, museums earn most during night. It must be opened 24/7.  This night economy is essential for a country’s economy. People must have places to spend their money.”

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SJB asks govt. to introduce political reforms fast

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By Saman Indrajith

Chief Opposition Whip Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella has asked the government when it will introduce the political reforms demanded by the international community.

Speaking in Parliament on Saturday, Kiriella said that when the Opposition parties met the members of the Colombo-based diplomatic community during the Aragalaya protests, the latter had demanded that Sri Lanka implement political and economic reforms to receive foreign assistance to get out of the prevailing crisis. “That was six months ago. We have been asking the government repeatedly to inform this House whether it has implemented those reforms.

“The riginal plan was to establish an interim government for six months to restore the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. It was stated that an election would be held after six months. Now, what has happened? The politicians who are responsible for the crisis are still in power.

“Foreign Minister Al Sabry met USAID Administrator Samantha Power on Friday. Samantha Power called for the same political and economic reforms again. The international community is asking for the same.”

Leader of the House, Minister Susil Premjayantha said that political reforms were being implemented. “It is as part of the political reforms we are setting up a National Council, Sectoral Oversight Committees and three other committees. Counter terrorism act is in the pipeline. It will be taken up within couple of weeks. We passed several bills with your support. There were nine amendments to be introduced to the criminal law,” he said.

Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa: “The bills and amendments that have been passed are not enough as far as the international community and we are concerned. The biggest request is to allow the people of this country for a new mandate. Allow the people to express their will. Give them a chance to establish a new government or to maintain the same government now they have.”

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