Turkey can become a tea hub between Europe and Asia with Colombo's collaboration, said Sri Lanka's ambassador to Ankara P.M. Amza.
"Our hope and desire is to collaborate [in the tea sector] rather than compete in order to achieve a mutually beneficial outcome," Amza said in an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency.
Amza said that blending Sri Lankan and Turkish tea would enhance Turkey's production capacity thus making the country not only an importer but also an exporter of the product.
"Sri Lanka is often misunderstood as a competitor to Turkey in the tea sector. I wish to reassure that we do not wish to find a solution that will affect the livelihood of 240,000 families engaged in Turkish tea industry," Amza said.
Pointing out that a 145 percent of tax levied on imported tea in Turkey was a challenge for Sri Lanka, Amza said the two countries could share their expertise, experience and know-how including the exchange of plants for lower taxes.
"Turkey is also a tea-producing country and I am aware such a high tax is to protect the local Turkish tea industry. However, the Turkish production of tea, which is approximately 259,000 metric tons per year, is not sufficient for local consumption. So it needs to import," Amza said.
He underlined that Turkey was the number one tea-drinking country in the world with annual per capita consumption of 3.6 kilograms per person.
Amza noted that representatives of the sector from both sides decided to hold a seminar to identify areas of cooperation that could benefit both countries.
Sri Lankan State Minister of International Trade Sujeewa Senasinghe paid an official visit to Turkey last week. During his meeting with Turkish Trade Minister Bulent Tufenkci, Senasinghe expressed Sri Lanka's willingness to cooperate over tea.
Amza said there were many other sectors in which Turkey and Sri Lanka could cooperate such as in jewelry, spices, and ship and yatch building.
He added that the trade volume between the two countries was to be increased to $500 million by 2020, from the current level of nearly $200 million.
Turkey's exports to Sri Lanka totalled $51.6 million while imports stood at $105.1 million in 2016, according to the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat).
Tea, spices and coffee compose nearly 60 percent of Turkish imports from Sri Lanka, TurkStat data indicated.
Source: Anadolu Agency