Sri Lanka's Tea Exporters Association (TEA), whose members export 83 percent of the tea produced in the island country, insisted that a proposal to liberalize tea imports would not have negative impact on pure Ceylon tea, a fear that has been expressed by some stakeholders.
The TEA chairman said that Sri Lanka, which has the world's largest tea auction and sold the highest-priced tea, was the best place for a tea hub that would import and blend different brands of tea.
"The government has plans to increase the current USD11 billion exports to USD20 billion by 2020. That means tea, as the country's highest foreign exchange earning crop, has to hit the USD5 billion mark," he said.
De Mel pointed out that in 2011, tea exports earned USD1.5 billion, and that it would be impossible to nearly triple earnings in eight years to meet the government target.
He noted that the TEA had been invited by Plantations and Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe to study the possibility of liberalizing tea imports, and a decision will be taken at the end of this year.