Sri Lanka Tea Board yesterday announced that Niraj de Mel has been appointed as the Chairman of the Board.
Niraj brings decades of experience in the Sri Lanka tea sector and has a long track record of leading innovative and diverse teams around the tea industry.
De Mel commenced his career in the industry as a tea taster and has over 45 years of experience as a tea broker, exporter, administrator and mentor. During his career he has held many top-level positions in both Sri Lankan and multinational tea companies. He is the Founder/Director of The Mel’s Tea Academy.
In addition to his career in the tea value chain, he also served as Chairman of the Sri Lanka Tea Board from June 2004 to November 2005.
He was a past Chairman of the Tea Exporter’s Association and the Colombo Brokers Association and a Vice Chairman of the Colombo Tea Traders Association.
Taking office once more at the Tea Board, Niraj said: “I am privileged to take on this role at such a crucial time in the history of our industry where the needs of the Tea industry regulators, stakeholders and consumers are changing rapidly.
“Every stakeholder - be they growers, manufacturers, producers, brokers and exporters - is facing challenges. Sri Lanka Tea Board is dealing with these changes in a very proactive and astute manner, seriously looking at innovative ways to maintain the reputation of Ceylon tea which will benefit all tea stakeholders for years to come.”
He further stated that he looks forward to working closely with all sectors in the tea value chain to ensure that Ceylon tea continues to make a positive impact among all buyers of Ceylon tea including tea lovers/consumers.
It is a very important time in history with global economic changes following the aftermath of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Freight, packing, labour and fuel costs have risen sharply thereby affecting the cost structure of products and consumer prices. These changes have been acutely felt in the tea industry too. However, de Mel highlighted that in spite of obstacles as a result of the issues facing the economy, first due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and currently the dollar crisis, the industry was able to generate $ 1.2 billion in 2020 and $ 1.3 billion in 2021.
Slightly better foreign exchange revenue is expected this year too due to very high prices for Ceylon tea since March which is expected to continue around these levels for the rest of the year.
He asserted that every possible measure is being taken to provide all required inputs including fertiliser and fuel to ensure that the wheels of production function smoothly, giving the required confidence to tea exporters that steady supplies of tea will be available.
De Mel noted that plans to improve the quality of tea and sustainability of the industry are in place. He added that the Sri Lanka Tea Board and the tea trade will constantly review these plans and persevere to keep up with the changes in relation to consumer preferences, pricing, quality, production, etc.
He pointed out that the tea industry has been a resilient one for over 150 years in Sri Lanka. De Mel added that the trade and the Government have been exploring new opportunities for Sri Lanka’s tea industry while several programs both locally and globally have been planned to promote the industry. The industry is confident that these measures will benefit producers and the trade alike going forward and ensure that Ceylon tea maintains its worldwide popularity.