Sri Lanka defends Ceylon tea after Russian ban over beetle
Sri Lanka's plantation minister has denied that the country's agricultural products, including its famous Ceylon tea, are dangerous, days after Russia imposed a temporary ban on such goods.
Russian safety watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor banned all imports of agricultural products from Sri Lanka starting on December 18, after an insect known as the Khapra beetle was found in the packaging of a consignment of Sri Lankan tea.
The beetle is known as one of the most destructive pests in the grain products and seeds industry.
Plantation minister Navin Dissanayake said the insect is not common in Sri Lanka and there is less than a 5% chance that it came from the island nation.
He said the insect could have entered the container when the ship stopped in other ports on its way to Russia.
Tea production is one of the main exports for Sri Lanka.
In 2015, Russia was the top buyer of Ceylon tea, purchasing a total of £116 million.
Mr Dissanayake said a team of officials and scientists from Sri Lanka may visit Russia next week to call for the ban to be lifted.