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Sri Lanka tea industry facing up to new challenges



Since the Spanish flu infected close to a third of the, then global population a century ago, not even the First & Second World Wars could bring about an enormous tragedy on the human race until the COVID 19 pandemic hit all corners of Planet Earth. The New Corona Virus cases are already racing towards the 50 million mark and the death toll exceeding 1.2 million people with just the Second Wave of the pandemic beginning to spread all over the world like a wild fire aided by the natural wind.

The in tropical & mystic island of Sri Lanka blessed with abundance of rich culture and fertile nature, rain forest, daily direct sunlight of at least 6 hours throughout the year resulting in a conducive climate, soil and weather ideal for growing tea.

Sri Lanka in entirety and the tea industry in particular overcame the First Wave of the COVID 19 during the 2nd Quarter of 2020 with admirable success. The immediate transformation from an “outcry system” to an online electronic Colombo Tea Auction after more than 125 years and the continuation of the total value chain mechanism from the growing, plucking, manufacturing, selling at the weekly auctions, blending & packaging, and finally marketing & exporting branded, packeted or bulk form during the lockdown by defining the tea industry and its export process as an essential service saved the day for “Ceylon Tea”. Though the tea crop has declined over 10% due to a number of causes, the tea prices fetched at the Colombo Tea Auction has in fact appreciated by 15% up to end of September 2020 vis-a-vis same period of last year from Rs 542 per kilo to Rs 624 per kilo.

Today, the world has reached a crucial milestone where every nation is searching for human immunity boosting methods to counter the Corona Virus infection until an effective vaccination is introduced to the global masses. In that context, drinking warm beverages and inhaling hot vapour is generally believed to be helpful. This is where the Tea Research Institute of Sri Lanka (TRI) in collaboration with the analytical laboratory of SLTB has conducted a literature survey and further studies on “Theaflavins in Black Tea” and concluded black tea may be helpful in controlling and flushing out the viruses. The TRI has released a scientific publication under the topic “Antiviral properties of Tea” where it has been noted that drinking Black Tea helps to fight viruses. It could theoretically draw a parallel to a Taiwan research study (original article published in 2005) where the chemical structure of 64 compounds had been bioinformatically modelled against SARS – COVID – 2.

The hypothesis developed by the scientists that “Theaflavins” an antioxidant polyphenol richly found in Black Tea could potentially inhibit an enzyme from the Corona family and increase the human immunity, will need further investigations to establish authenticity. Nevertheless, “Theaflavins” is proven to be a compound which could alleviate respiratory diseases and open air passages in the human lungs for the facilitation of breathing. Further, the laboratory scientists at Sri Lanka Tea Board suggest, that frequent consumption of hot Black Tea (without sugar & milk) and inhaling the tea fumes is supportive of flushing viruses trapped in the throat and nasal area. This reaction helps in improving the immune capacity and inhibiting inflammation due to Catechins and Polyphenols contained in Black Tea. It should be mentioned here that consumption of Black Tea has not been proven medically as a treatment against the COVID 19 until extensive research studies are conducted with human trials. 

In this connection, the Sri Lanka tea industry stakeholders have moved rapidly towards online meetings, lively discussions and working group sessions with the international clientele through virtual platforms such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom conferences. All promotional campaigns for Ceylon Tea for the future are being focused through digital and social media against the backdrop of a pandemic lockdown in many global destinations. Utilizing the power of social media applications such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, We chat etc through an identified panel of Influences, Bloggers, Authentic Opinion Makers and a few Celebrities Ceylon Tea clips, videos, messages, electronic banners etc are to be aired within the global campaign. It will be reinforced through search engines marketing availing Google, Yandex, Baidu and other effective digital media as per the respective countries of operation. This strategy is to be combined with other necessary upgrades on the supply chain mechanism. 

Hasitha de Alwis Consultant 

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Unlimited music streaming platform in Sri Lanka



SLT-Mobitel, the nation’s ICT and Telecommunications Service Provider recently partnered with Spotify, to mark their launch in Sri Lanka. Spotify is a paid premium music streaming app which allows subscribers to listen to music to their hearts content. Both, SLT-Mobitel Post-Paid and Pre-Paid customers will now be able to enjoy Spotify by activating a monthly recurring subscription or one-time subscription plan and access unlimited music streaming and downloading facilities.

The subscription charges will get added to the user’s customary billing, where payment will be deducted in real time. Starting from the payment date, the user will be able to access Spotify and download their favourite songs, for the next 30 days. Users who sign up for their first monthly subscription will receive an additional one month, courtesy of Spotify. The one-month subscription plan is not applicable with one-time subscription plans. SLT-Mobitel data rates, depending on the user’s respective broadband charges, will apply.

Spotify also has some exciting features that will provide SLT-Mobitel customers with the opportunity to listen to ad-free music, access millions of uninterrupted music under one platform, play any song they like, anywhere they go, and also be able to enjoy their music offline.

SLT-Mobitel customers can select their preferred premium package under four categories; Individual, Duo, Family, Student. Each category has recurring and non-recurring plans. After one month of free streaming, the package will activate once the offer period terminates. While both, the Individual and Student premiums are limited to one account user, the Duo package offers two accounts and the Family premium is accessible through six accounts. To view Spotify plans, users can log on to



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Sri Lanka using ‘sovereign power’ over economy: CB Governor



by Sanath Nanayakkare

Anyone conversant with the elements of a political economy would know that Sri Lanka is using its ‘sovereign power’ to manage the different dynamics of the economy in a sustainable manner, Professor W. D Lakshman Governor of the Central Bank said on Wednesday.

“Some critics are saying that we adopt a so-called modern monetary theory. That’s not the case. In fact, Sri Lanka is using its sovereign power in a number of economic aspects to honour its external debt repayment commitments as well as to reduce its debt burden in the medium term as well as achieve resilient growth in the medium to long term, he said.

“We make policy decisions to boost our gross foreign reserves, meet our external debt servicing, to facilitate monetary expansion, to boost our GDP growth, to strengthen our current account balance and manage our domestic and external economic variables in a sustainable manner. This is not a modern monetary theory. This is an age-old tool used by central banks around the world when the circumstances demand it, he said.

“Certain trade-offs will be necessary when dealing with an economy which has a big fiscal gap to bridge. There are efforts to push Sri Lanka towards the IMF again which would in turn have influence on our policymaking. We have taken policy measures to stabilize the economy and we have adequate reserve levels to meet our debt repayments. Meanwhile, we are in negotiations with overseas central banks and multilateral agencies to further boost our reserve level and it would materialise within a matter of weeks,” he noted.

“One of the tools the Central Bank has introduced is in respect of repatriation of export proceeds into Sri Lanka and conversion of such proceeds into Sri Lankan rupees in order to strengthen the foreign exchange situation of the country,” he said.

The Governor made these remarks while delivering the keynote speech at a webinar organised by the Veemansa Initiative led by its Managing Director Luxman Siriwardene – the former Executive Director of Pathfinder Foundation.

The webinar revolved round the topic ‘External debt situation in Sri Lanka: Are we heading for a resolution or crisis?’

Professor Sirimal Abeyratne, Prof. Sumanasiri Liyanage, Dr. Nishan de Mel and Dr. Ravi Liyanage were the other speakers on the panel.

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CSE on the rebound; indices close positive



By Hiran H.Senewiratne 

CSE produced signs of a rebound yesterday with both indices closing positive, though turnover remained low. Central Bank Governor W.D Lakshman’s recent statement on managing foreign reserves gave some boost to the market yesterday, stock market analysts said.

 The index experienced a zigzag movement within the early hours of trading; thereafter, it recorded a slight up-trend as it reached its intraday high of 7,439. Later, the market witnessed a down-trend at mid-day, followed by a sideways movement and closed at 7,372, gaining 43 points during the month of February, market sources said. 

It is said the banking sector dominated turnover with a contribution of considerable  parcel trades in Sampath Bank, Commercial Bank  and HNB.

Further, the Commercial Bank’s impressive quarterly results during the recent turbulent period also built investor  confidence. Commercial Bank was able to register a18 percent net interest income when other banks were reporting a decline. Its share price increased by Rs. 3 or 3.5 percent. On the previous day, its shares started trading at Rs. 85 and at the end of the day they moved up to Rs. 88. Due to the positive growth results, the bank announced a Rs. 4.40 dividend per share, plus a Rs. 2 script divergent for every share.

Further,  Sampath Bank shares also appreciated in both crossing and retail. In crossings its shares appreciated by Rs. 1.At the end of the day they moved up to Rs. 154.50. In the retail market, its shares moved up by Rs. 2 or 1.3 percent. Previously, its shares fetched Rs. 154 and at the end of yesterday they moved up to Rs. 156.  

Amid those developments, both indices moved upwards. The All Share Price Index went up by 104.48 points and S and P SL20 rose by 67.78 points. Turnover stood at Rs. 3 billion with four crossings. Those crossings were reported in Sampath Bank, where 3.9 million shares crossed for Rs. 602.2 million, its share price being Rs. 154.50, HNB 375,000 shares crossed for Rs. 39.4 million, its shares traded at Rs. 105, Pan Asia Power 9.5 million shares crossed for Rs. 33.2 million, its shares traded at Rs. 3.50 and Access Engineering 1.2 million shares crossed for Rs. 28.2 million; its shares traded at Rs. 24.

In the retail market top five companies that mainly contributed to the turnover were, Expolanka Rs. 450 million (10 million shares traded), JKH Rs. 205 million (1.3 million shares traded), Browns Investments Rs. 199 million (34.9 million shares traded), Sampath Bank Rs. 191 million (1.2 million shares traded) and Dipped Products Rs. 137.7 million (2.8 million shares traded). During the day 101 million share volumes changed hands in 18046 transactions. 

During the day, Expolanka, the biggest contributor to the turnover, saw its share price appreciating by Rs. 6.20 or 15 percent. Its share price quoted on the previous day was Rs. 41 and at the end of trading yesterday it moved up to Rs. 47.

Sri Lanka’s rupee quoted wider at 193.50/195.50 levels to the US dollar in the spot next market on Thursday while bond yields remained unchanged, dealers said. The rupee last closed in the spot market at 194.50/195.00 to the dollar on Wednesday.

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