“Russia has imposed a ban on Ceylon Tea, but it was nothing to do with asbestos but was only about an insect found in a Tea package from Sri Lanka” said Ambassador of the Russian Federation Yury Materiy on 9 January. Ambassador Materiy was meeting the Minister of Industry and Commerce of Sri Lanka Rishad Bathiudeen at his office in Colombo on 9 January.
“If we connected Ceylon Tea exports issue with Sri Lankan imports of Russian asbestos as widely speculated, then our tea ban would have to continue even now, isn’t it?” asked Ambassador Materiy. “We are not speaking about asbestos in general but only about Russian Chrysotile which is not harmful.
Sri Lanka has been among the leading buyers of asbestos in the world. In 2015, the four leading asbestos importers in the world were India, Indonesia, China and Sri Lanka (buying from all asbestos exporting countries). Sri Lanka absorbed 6% of global asbestos imports in 2015. According to the Department of Commerce, ‘Iron & steel’, ‘wheat’ and ‘asbestos’ have been the three leading imports from Russia to Sri Lanka in recent years. Sri Lanka’s recent asbestos imports from Russia has been at low levels and has shown a declining trend -$ 33.87 Mn in 2014, $27.92 Mn in 2015 and $28.80 Mn in 2016. From January to August this year, Sri Lanka’s asbestos imports from Russia was only $ 13.57 Mn.
In 2015 Russia was the topmost buyer of Ceylon Tea at $156.65 Mn, and the second leading buyer was Turkey. However, in 2016, Russia became the second largest buyer of all types of Ceylon Teas (including green tea made in Sri Lanka) at $ 143 Mn–the leading buyer in 2016 was Iran, at $ 154.10 Mn.