December 15, 2017 / 3:04 PM / in 2 months

UPDATE 2-Russia restricts tea supplies from Sri Lanka after finding beetle

(Adds Sri Lankan ministry response)

MOSCOW, Dec 15 (Reuters) - Russia will place temporary restrictions on imports of tea and all other agricultural products from Sri Lanka from Dec. 18 after a beetle was found a tea consignment, the agricultural safety watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor said on Thursday.

The watchdog said the insect, known as the Khapra beetle, was discovered in the packaging of a consignment of tea from Sri Lanka, which said it was an isolated case and that it would work with the Russian authorities to resolve the issue.

Sri Lankan tea accounts for 23 percent of the Russian market, with other supplies coming from India, Kenya, China and Vietnam, said the head of the Rusteacoffee association, Ramaz Chanturiya, according to a report by RIA news agency.

Members of Rusteacoffee, an association of Russian tea producers, will ask Rosselkhoznadzor to resume tea imports from Sri Lanka but with tougher controls, he said.

Russia imported 141,300 tonnes of tea worth $436 million in the first 10 months of 2017, customs data showed.

Sri Lankan authorities described the case as an isolated incident, saying the beetle species Trogoderma granarium was not associated with tea and was a pest of grain crops, such as rice.

The beetle might have been in the shipping container before the tea was loaded, possibly left there from a previous cargo of grain.

Sri Lanka’s Plantation Industries Minister Navin Dissanayake would visit Russia to resolve the issue, the ministry said in its statement. (Reporting by Polina Devitt in Moscow and Ranga Sirilal in Sri Lanka; Editing by Edmund Blair)

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