The Russian Ambassador to Sri Lanka Yury Materiy said that the tea issue had nothing to do with Sri Lanka’s decision to ban the import of asbestos, including asbestos from Russia, but was purely related to tea.
“Yes, we imposed a ban on Ceylon Tea, but it was nothing to do with our asbestos but was only about an insect found in a Tea package from Sri Lanka” the Ambassador said at a meeting the Minister of Industry and Commerce of Sri Lanka Rishad Bathiudeen.
“If we connected the Ceylon Tea exports issue with Sri Lankan imports of Russian asbestos as widely speculated, then our tea ban would have to continue even now. We are not speaking about asbestos in general but only about Russian chrysotile (white asbestos) which is not harmful. Lots of investigations have been done on it. Russian workers who have been working in the chrysotile industry for the last thirty years are doing fine and not one worker was reported to have had cancer in the last thirty years. There are many workers who handle chrysotile in the mines with bare hands, and they are fine. If you decide to import chrysotile from us, we will be very happy,” Ambassador Materiy said.
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.
Following the issue with Russia on Sri Lankan tea, the Sri Lankan Government decided to suspend the ban on asbestos.
“We want to strengthen relations with Sri Lanka further. Bilateral trade between both countries is still low and it is time we expand our trade with diversified products. In this light, I am pleased to say that we shall look forward to the arrival of a a Sri Lanka delegation to attend the Russia-Lanka Intergovernmental Commission meeting in Moscow later this year so that we can start bigger trade. We look forward to stronger bilateral cooperation with Sri Lanka. We in Russia like to support Sri Lanka in development cooperation in the sectors of energy and agriculture,” he said.
Sri Lanka’s total trade (both imports and exports) with the Russian Federation which was at US $ 435.83 Mn in 2015 declined to $ 381.71 Mn in 2016. This year in the January to August period, it reported a total of US $ 260.78 Mn. (Colombo Gazette)