Global tea producers meet at ETP Annual Conference in London

Wednesday, 11 September 2013 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP) and IDH – The Sustainable Trade Initiative hosted Team Up 2013 in London, bringing together over 100 delegates from across the tea supply chain to discuss the next big steps in tea sustainability. The event, which welcomed professionals from producing regions, tea companies, retailers, and key NGOs and development organisations, provided a collaborative platform to evaluate the systemic changes required for a healthy tea sector, greater supply chain security, and a more socially and environmentally sustainable sector. Team Up 2013 is an expansion of ETP’s annual summer meeting and it was the first time tea producers from around the world had been invited to speak. Joining other distinguished guests on the Producer Panel was the Managing Director of Kelani Valley and Talawakelle PLC and Deputy Chairman of the Planters’ Association of Ceylon, Roshan Rajadurai. Rajadurai also serves on the Board of the Tea Small Holdings Development Authority of Sri Lanka and the Tea Council of Sri Lanka. The session was an opportunity for delegates to hear first-hand about sustainability initiatives from their respective regions, as well as challenges and opportunities facing the industry. Topics included climate change, wage structure, labour shortages, and pressures from growing domestic markets, alternative crops, and international standards. Together with his counterparts, Rajadurai agreed that climate change was the biggest issue facing the tea industry, which if unaddressed, would have serious ramifications for workers and smallholder farmers, since yields and leaf quality are inextricably linked to weather conditions. When asked about how declining workforces and labour shortages would impact the industry, Rajadurai said, “Sustainability of the industry is linked to the sustainability of workers,” making the point that everyone concerned with tea, both inside and outside the industry, has a role to play in improving wages. He added that it was also important to raise worker dignity and morale if the industry was to become more attractive to young workers. Using his own experience as CEO of Kahawatte, he explained how this had been achieved by implementing an outgrower model that gives workers a real stake in the business (workers own the crop and the estate owns the land). After the meeting, Sarah Roberts, Executive Director of ETP enthused: “We were both delighted and honoured to hear from all of the producers, learning about the challenges they face on a daily basis and the initiatives they have implemented that are improving social and environmental conditions on the ground. Their presence gave an extra dimension to this year’s meeting and we will ensure to have guests of the same high calibre next year.”