Planters Association says tea imports spell doom!
The Planters’ Association of Ceylon (PA) yesterday reacting strongly to the statement made by the Tea Exporters Association (TEA), at which they have stated, inter alia, that the import of orthodox black tea would not impact adversely on Pure Ceylon Tea as a premium brand. The PA is in total disagreement.
While the TEA, by its own admission, represents only 83% of the tea exporters, the PA is aware that their membership is not unanimous in the decision to import teas, with several leading member exporters being opposed to this proposal while several others are not convinced that this is the way forward.
Meanwhile, the entire grower segment, represented by the Federation of Tea Small Holder Societies, which comprises over 400,000 small holdings and producing 70% of the national tea crop and the membership of the PA, which accounts for the balance 30%, is totally opposed to the importation of orthodox black tea.
The PA is convinced that such a move will tarnish the long-established and internationally acclaimed image of Ceylon Tea and will preclude the use of titles and certifications such as:
Cleanest tea in the world: While Sri Lankan producers adhere strictly to TRI recommendations on the use of pesticides and chemicals, recent Greenpeace investigation reports indicate significant pesticide residues in teas from certain competitor countries which are hazardous to health when consumed.
The only ozone friendly tea in the world: Sri Lanka was the first tea growing country in the world to comply with the Kyoto Protocol in eliminating the use of methyl bromide almost a decade before the international deadline.
Can we be certain that tea imports are ethically produced, as labour regulations in most tea growing countries are not as stringent and in some instances have regimented workforces?
What is the fate of the Geographical Indicators identified and registered internationally by the Sri Lanka Tea Board to highlight the diversity of Ceylon Tea, which has been the focus of the last two Tea Conventions?
Considering the time, effort and investment that have gone into achieving the above, it would cause irreparable and irreversible damage to stakeholders who have diligently obtained international certification, in striving to conform to meet the requirements of importing countries.
Apart from the above factors, the likelihood of an adverse impact on demand at the Colombo auctions combined with a foreseeable decline in prices will certainly spell doom to the producers without whom the trade cannot exist.
The TEA’s proposal of importing orthodox tea for value addition is, in the PA’s mind, paradoxical as the imported tea will, of necessity, be of a lower quality and hence any value enhancement would be to the benefit of the imported tea rather than the tea produced locally.
Furthermore, the imported tea will come at a cost and it would be interesting to ascertain the net increase in export earnings and what quantum of tea would have to be imported to reach the “magical US$ 5 billion target by 2020”.
On the contrary, if Sri Lanka is to preserve its Pure Ceylon Tea image, as well as enhance export earnings towards achieving this target, it would be appropriate for the Government of Sri Lanka to ensure the long-term sustainability of the industry by supporting capital development activities such as re-planting and factory upgrading and simultaneously assisting to establish more Sri Lankan-owned brands while securing new markets with the additional recovery of Rs. 3.50 per kilo specifically for marketing and promotional activities.