The Embassy of Sri Lanka in Washington DC and the Sri Lanka Tea Board organized a virtual B2B meeting on 27 January for tea exporters in Sri Lanka and importers and other stake holders of the USA tea industry to promote Pure Ceylon Tea in the USA market. 129 participants from the USA and Sri Lanka joined the meeting.
Opening the discussion, Ambassador Ravinatha Aryasinha pointed out that tea remained possibly the only Sri Lankan export which did not see a decline in the early period of the COVID crisis mid 2020. Besides the generally known benefits, its special attribute as an immunity booster helped in this. Sri Lanka was also smart to adopt to the times, and to overcome the challenge to the tea sales due to the outbreak of the pandemic, converted the physically tea auction to the more sophisticated electronic online auction. He hoped that the resilience shown by Sri Lanka would encourage the Tea Association in the USA, to launch a renewed push to enable Sri Lankan tea to secure a larger market in the USA.
Chairman of the Sri Lanka Tea Board Jayampathy Molligoda, gave the overall outlook of the tea industry of Sri Lanka, the stringent quality control measures implemented by the Sri Lanka Tea Board, and the ongoing and planned marketing campaigns in the USA. Mr. Molligoda said the USA is an important market because the country is the third largest buyer of tea in the world after Russia and Pakistan. He emphasized that Ceylon tea doesn't follow a cost leadership strategy, because the sustainability and wellness factor are important when marketing Premium Ceylon Tea.
President of the Tea Association of the USA Peter Goggi, provided an outlook of the Tea Industry in the USA. He said tea sales had increase during 2020 from US$ 12.67 Bn. to 13.12 Bn. However, the tea sales in sectors such as food service has shown a severe decline as a result of the pandemic. Moreover he mentioned that particularly the segments such as specialty tea and high end tea have grown during 2019. Overall growth of tea sales has increased between 3% - 4%. According to Mr. Goggi, the corona virus pandemic has impacted on overall tea imports into the USA, but it has not impacted of Sri Lanka's tea exports to the USA.
Mr. Michael Harney, CEO of Harneey & Sons, also explained the impact of COVID to the specialty business, while Mr. Kingsley Alagaratnam, CEO, Q Trade Teas & Herbs explained about the supply and demand in the specialty segment.
Mr. Sanje Widyaratne, Chairman/CEO of Walters Bay - USA described the branding of Ceylon Tea in the USA market. Mr. Chaminda Jayawardena, CEO Lumbini Teas made a Ceylon Tea conducted a demonstration and tasting.
The meeting coordinated by Minister/Commercial Sumedha Ponnamperuma provided a useful opportunity for Sri Lankan exporters/traders to learn about the current situation of the US tea market given the on-going pandemic situation and also the current trends of the market and opportunities. During the meeting the Sri Lanka Tea Board assured the US tea industry that Sri Lanka continues to meet demand for Premium Pure Ceylon Tea overcoming the challenges posed by the ongoing pandemic. The forum created a platform for tea traders of both countries to exchange their contacts with a view to establishing a long term more sustainable relationships.
Embassy of Sri Lanka
30 January 2021