Russia has suspended tea imports from Sri Lanka from December 18 onwards, after Khapra beetles were found in a consignment.
The ban has prompted three ministers, the minister of plantations, Navin Dissanayake, the industry and commerce minister, Rishad Bathiudeen and the minister of science, technology and research, Susil Premajayantha, to visit Moscow urgently in order to seek a removal of the ban.
The Sri Lankan president, Maithripala Sirisena on Sunday said he would make an official request to his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin to remove the ban, the Daily Mirror reported.
According to local papers Sri Lankan ministers believe the ban is a response to Sri Lanka's decision to ban chrysotile containing asbestos which is mainly imported from Russia by 2024, however, ministers have not ruled out the possibility of India 'meddling'.
The Sunday Times noted:
"While ministerial sources, who declined to be named, confirmed that the suspension was a tit-for-tat for the ban on chrysotile, trade sources didn’t rule out other areas in which there has some dispute with Russia or a ‘Russian friendly-nation’ in the latest spat between Colombo and Moscow. The reference was to the recent delay in Sri Lanka buying a Russian patrol vessel for the Navy, a decision that was eventually approved by the Cabinet in late November. Also discussed in political circles, though there is no clear evidence or proof, is India’s possible ‘meddling’ through Russia in putting pressure on trade deals due to the South Asian superpower’s annoyance of an increased China presence, particularly in Hambantota, while India securing the Trincomalee port and its environs is trapped in political manoeuvering here."
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