Ad-hoc Govt. policies will make Ceylon Tea thing of past: Anselm

Tuesday, 28 May 2024 02:28 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • Asserts wage hike threatens survival of Sri Lanka’s historic tea industry
  • Stresses on lack of consultation with industry stakeholders before implementing significant policy changes, citing past decisions like nationalisation, glyphosate ban, fertiliser use
  • Argues move is unsustainable and would force cuts in essential costs ultimately impacting tea quality
  • Calls for protecting of national tea trade for future generations 

Anselm Perera

Industry veteran and Mlesna Tea founder Anselm Perera yesterday issued a stark warning on the future of Ceylon Tea criticising the Government’s decision to increase minimum wage hike by 70%.

Speaking at a joint press conference organised by the industry, he said the move threatens the very existence of Sri Lanka’s historic tea industry. “If the Government continues to make short-sighted, stubborn decisions, Ceylon Tea will become a thing of the past,”Perera declared. 

Perera expressed frustration at the lack of consultation with industry stakeholders before implementing major policy changes. “Decisions like nationalisation, banning glyphosate, and now these wage hikes were made without consulting us. These decisions have brought our industry down. If this continues, future generations will never see Ceylon Tea as we know it.”

He categorically said politicians should not be making decisions for the industry. “It is us, the industry experts, who should be guiding its future. If the sector is ruined, the entire economy will suffer,” he stressed.

Perera, who has spent 55 years in the tea industry, highlighted several Government policies that have adversely impacted the sector. He pointed to the nationalisation of plantations, the banning of glyphosate, recent restrictions on fertiliser for commercial crops and the attempts to forcefully implement the minimum wage hike from next month as examples of harmful decisions.

He called to protect the national tea industry, urging the Government to consider the long-term impacts of their policies. “We must safeguard this national trade for our children and the generations to come. The survival of Ceylon Tea depends on it,” he added.

Perera criticised the recent wage hike, which he argued are unsustainable for the industry. “If labour costs rise to Rs. 1,500 we cannot sustain the industry. We will be forced to cut down on everything, including fertiliser, energy, transport, welfare which will ultimately reduce the quality of our tea.”

He contrasted the productivity of Sri Lankan workers with those in Kenya and India, where workers produce significantly more tea per day. “In Kenya, they get 50 kilos per day, and in India, 34 kilos. But here, we are far behind with just 18 kilos. How can we compete when our costs are so high and our productivity so low?” he asked.

Reflecting on his extensive experience, Perera noted the industry’s evolution from Government control to privatisation, stressing the need for quality and efficiency. “We export in three main forms: bulk tea, finished products, and value-added brands. Each of these segments is crucial for maintaining the industry’s viability.”

He explained that value-added tea products command higher prices due to additional costs like packaging, export fees, and marketing expenses. “When you see Ceylon Tea on supermarket shelves, it’s not just the tea you’re paying for. There are many added costs involved. We need to maintain high standards to justify these prices, but the Government decisions are undermining these efforts.”