At the Annual sessions of the Organisation for Professional Associations (OPA) on the theme ‘Way Forward Vision 20/20 ” The Chairman of the Advisory Committee for Value added Teas at the Ministry of Industry and Commerce Rohantha Athukorala in his address ‘Partnership for Competitive Advantage’, stated that the two segments that Sri Lanka is dominant on which is the Black Tea and Green Tea segments, the new product launched globally has declined by 5.9% during the last four years.
On the other hand the four billion dollar fruit tea and Herbal Tea segments of the world, the new product which the world saw in the period 2005-2009 has been increasing by 64% and 92.5% respectively, which explained how the Tea industry is actually fighting in the bigger picture —the beverage industry that is getting strongly consumer taste savvy.
The Speaker asserted that Ceylon Tea whilst it is unique for its taste and image globally, it also fetches the highest prices in the auction system that no other country can command, which means that we as a nation are unique in what we offer the world market. But we must also be mindful that we as a nation have a responsibility to innovate and drive the black tea and green globally so that we set the stage globally for this industry. In other words Sri Lanka Tea must be seen as the trend setter like what Sri Lanka apparel industry has done for Sri Lanka in relation to the global apparel industry.
In this perspective Athukorala commented that concepts like ‘Tea Hub’ that the industry has been voicing must be seriously considered to be tested in Sri Lanka. Maybe in a focused geographical area like Hambantota and focusing on just one key export market. A Tea Hub can be set up with its ususal policies that drive such a sector in the likes of Jebalally. Post the test market as an industry one can determine its success and learnings before taking a final decision for the country. The important thing is for it to be tested and not just thrown out of the window.
The speaker also stated that the industry has some serious supply chain issues that need to be addressed and it is only by way of a private-public partnership approach that such issues can be addressed. On the other hand the Demand Chain challenges must also be addressed if we are to make Sri Lanka’s Tea industry be a 2.5 billion dollar business for Sri Lanka.