The China International Import Expo provides Sri Lankan tea exporters with an opportunity to enter the Chinese market while encouraging producers to step up quality, Sri Lankan business leaders have said.
In an exclusive interview to Xinhua, CEO of Dilmah Tea Dilhan Fernando said that the CIIE was very helpful for tea companies like Dilmah because it provided opportunities to learn about Chinese consumer preferences.
"One thing we learned from several previous participations at CIIE was to respect the Chinese tea culture while finding ways to differentiate ourselves. So we pitch Ceylon tea as being fundamentally different and not a substitute for Chinese tea," Fernando explained.
Fernando said that young Chinese consumers are adventurous and willing to try new products, Sri Lankan tea producers would therefore educate Chinese consumers on the proper way to prepare and enjoy Ceylon tea.
Kosala Wickramanayake, president of the International Business Council in Sri Lanka, said that even though China's tea culture spans thousands of years, Chinese consumers are not familiar with English-style tea culture which is prevalent in Sri Lanka and other Ceylon tea drinking countries.
"We must study the Chinese way of serving tea and adapt it to suit the particular qualities of Ceylon tea. Chinese people like to talk about the qualities of tea and are interested in details including even the history of a particular tea bush," he said.
Wickramanayake said that the CIIE could therefore incentivize Sri Lankan tea exporters to increase product specialization and value addition in order to adapt to the conditions of the China market.
This year will be the fourth time for Sri Lanka to participate in the CIIE.
Tea made up 12 percent of Sri Lanka's export revenue in 2020 and China was the country's fifth-largest tea export destination.