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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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Six nabbed with over 100 kg of ‘Ice’

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By Norman Palihawadane and Ifham Nizam

The Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) yesterday arrested six suspects in the Sapugaskanda Rathgahawatta area with more than 100 kilos of Crystal Methamphetamine also known as Ice.

Police Media Spokesman, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Ajith Rohana told the media that the PNB sleuths, acting on information elicited from a suspect in custody had found 91 packets of Ice.

A man in possession of 100 kilos of heroin was arrested in Modera during the weekend and revealed that a haul of Ice had been packed in plastic boxes.

The PNB seized more than 114 kilos of Ice from the possession of a single drug network.

According to the information elicited from the suspects, more than 100 kilos of Ice were found.

The PNB also arrested six persons including two women with 13 kilos of Ice, during an operation carried out in the Niwandama area in Ja-Ela on Sunday.

DIG Rohana said the ice had been packed in small plastic boxes and hidden in two school bags.

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PM intervenes to iron out differences among coalition partners

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By Norman Palihawadane

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday said that he was confident that differences among the constituents of the SLPP coalition as regards the May Day celebrations and the next Provincial Council elections could be ironed out soon.

Leaders of all SLPP allied parties have been invited to a special meeting to be held at Temple Trees with the PM presiding on April 19.

Prime Minister Rajapaksa said it was natural for members of a political alliance to have their own standpoints and views on matters of national importance. “This is due to the different political ideologies and identities. It is not something new when it comes to political alliances world over. In a way, it shows that there is internal democracy within our alliance.

The PM said: “As a result of that the allied parties may express their own views on issues, but that does not mean there is a threat to the unity of the alliance. An alliance is more vibrant and stronger not when all the parties think on the same lines but when the member parties have different ideologies.”

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Thilo Hoffman remembered

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A copy of the book “Politics of a Rainforest: Battles to save Sinharaja” was handed over to Dominik Furgler, the Swiss Ambassador in Sri Lanka by the author of the book, Dr. Prasanna Cooray at the Swiss Embassy in Colombo last Tuesday, to be sent to the family of the late Thilo Hoffman in Switzerland.

Hoffman, a Swiss national, who made Sri Lanka his second home for six decades, was a pioneering environmental activist who led the battles to save Sinharaja from the front in the early 1970s, abreast with the likes of Iranganie Serasinghe, Kamanie Vitharana, Lynn De Alwis and Nihal Fernando of the “Ruk Rekaganno” fame. That was the era when the trees of Sinharaja were felled for the production of plywood by the then government. Hoffman was also a livewire of the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS) for a long time. Hoffman died in 2014 at the age of 92.

The book includes a chapter on Thilo Hoffman.

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