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‘Tea blending for re-export a destructive practice’

President Maithripala Sirisena meeting media heads yesterday. Picture by President’s Media Division

President Maithripala Sirisena yesterday decried the practice of blending inferior foreign teas with local teas for re-export, saying it was highly damaging to the local tea industry.

Addressing the media at the President’s House, President Sirisena said this practice has been identified as one of the reasons for the loss of export revenues. This will devalue the Ceylon Tea brand and make it less appealing to foreign buyers who seek genuine Ceylon Tea.

A similar situation has arisen with the re-export of pepper and pineapple, he said. The Pepper industry has been affected as a result of mixing lower quality foreign pepper with local pepper and re-exporting. No action has been taken on these matters by the relevant authorities.

The president also disclosed another serious problem that affects the Cost of Living vis-a-vis the pricing of imported foods and other essential goods. “For example, a food item that costs Rs.500 to import is often priced at Rs.1500, whereas it should cost only Rs.750 or so. This is a grave injustice to the consumer, who has to pay triple for a product that costs only Rs.500. Some entities profit enormously through this unfair practice. The Consumer Affairs Authority must step in to prevent this and protect the consumer.”

Such practices are not conducive to a healthy economy, he added. “We have taken many steps to improve the economy which was in very bad shape in 2015. However we have to address shortcomings like this to improve the economy. Economic management has to improve.”

Commenting on the much-delayed Audit Bill, the President said it would finally see the light of day soon. Auditing was an essential component of a good economy. “This Bill was to be brought in 2016. I have spoken about this over 100 times. The National Audit Commission members have told me they were idling. This is not an enviable situation at all. There seems to be a lethargic attitude about this on some sectors, which could have been the cause for the delay.”

Presidential Secretary Austin Fernando said the Audit Bill will soon be ready for presentation and implementation, having completed the drafting process.