0815 GMT January 29, 2020
Two weeks back, a discussion was held at the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry among relevant officials, Plantation Industries Ministry Secretary J.A. Ranjith said, reported sundaytimes.lk.
Sri Lankan tea exporters are currently facing a crisis for not only have tea prices dropped, but the industry is unable to export to Iran due to trade sanctions imposed on dollar transactions with Iran by the US.
During the meeting they discussed how to resolve the issue pertaining to the sale of Ceylon Tea to Iran due to the current US sanctions imposed on Iran as a result of which banks refuse to engage in dollar transactions with Iranian banks.
“As a result, now we are looking at settling this through the loans from the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) amounting to $200 million,” the ministry secretary said.
At the moment the officials were working out the mechanism to be adopted to settle this without any transaction, he said.
Ranjith explained that if this is adopted, they could sell tea to Iran for the next two years under this arrangement.
The rate at which tea could be bought would be based on market realities, he said.
As part of the transaction, the CPC has agreed to pay the tea exporters some of the money directly, thereby avoiding any financial transaction between the two countries in the sale of tea, the ministry secretary stated.
In the meantime, Iranian officials were also engaged in discussions to work out a mechanism on how the deal could go through and in this respect negotiations were still underway.
In 2018, Sri Lanka sold 23,914 tons of tea to Iran, and in the previous year it was much higher at 27,418 tons. Iran is among the top five markets that purchase teas from Sri Lanka. The other key markets are Iraq, Turkey and Russia.