Iran accepts tea in payment for Sri Lankan oil debt

Ceylon tea is highly popular in the country

Agricultural workers harvest tea leaves in Sri Lanka. Reuters
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Iran has agreed to accept Ceylon tea in payment for a Sri Lankan oil debt valued at $251 million, Iranian media reported Thursday.

“In recent negotiations, we reached a written deal to reimburse Iran's debt and interest on it in the form of a monthly shipment of tea produced in Sri Lanka,” the head of Iran's Trade Promotion Organisation said.

Alireza Peyman-Pak was quoted as saying that “a deal was reached on Tuesday, according to which Sri Lanka will export tea to Iran every month to settle a $251m debt for Iranian oil supplied to Sri Lanka nine years ago".

In 2016, Ceylon tea made up about half of Iranian consumption, but the proportion has declined in recent years.

The barter deal will allow sanctions-hit Iran to avoid having to use up scarce hard currency to pay for imports of the widely consumed staple, Mr Peyman-Pak said.

“Iran and Sri Lanka have great potential to develop mutual trade,” he said, and added that Iran's non-oil exports to the country are valued at less than $100m a year.

Website Economynext cited Sri Lankan Plantation Industries Minister Ramesh Pathirana as saying the deal “will not violate any UN or US sanctions since tea has been categorised as a food item under humanitarian grounds".

He added that Iranian banks that have been blacklisted under US sanctions will not be involved in the transaction.

Updated: December 23, 2021, 5:54 PM