Revolution in Sri Lanka on Tea and Tourism
Posted on September 17th, 2010

Sarath Wijesinghe LL.M (London) Solicitor-Attorney-at-Law

Most consumed liquid next water

 Tea is the most consumed liquid of the mankind next to water.  It is a very healthy innocent and a natural drink which is consumed worldwide as a social drink which bonds families countries and the world, entertains societies and has become a main income earner of many countries including Sri Lanka (once Ceylon) which has now lost her position as the main tea exporter. Tea leaves contains more than 700 chemicals, vitamins, caffeine and items which immunes functions of the human body.  It prevents dental caries due to presence of fluorine.  It normalizes blood pressure, prevents coronary heart diseases and diabetes by reducing blood glucose activity.  It is an easily consumed natural herbal drink which is compatible with nature.  It is often used in all segments of social events which is a necessity in day to day life and association of modern mankind. It spreads worldwide with no borders and territories by the sheer attraction of the taste which is harmless to the body including children in a society where multinational companies resort to vigorous propaganda to propagate toxic drinks harmful to the body. 

 Beautiful Island

 Sri Lanka a beautiful island of agriculture has turned into a country of mixed economy, commercial plantations such as tea, rubber and coconut out of which tea is still a main crop which brings income and glory to Sri Lanka in the field of commerce and trade.  Sri Lanka produces 8% of the global production having reached the position of the second exporter to the world.  Out of 300-315 million of kilos produced in Sri Lanka 259 is exported consuming only fraction of the production which is not the case of India and China where 90% of the production is consumed locally by the Indian population.  Kenya is the first among the Tea exporters and it is doubtful whether Sri Lanka can regain the position   due to practical constraints such as limited land and the old age of the tea plants.  Tea plantation is cumbersome, expensive and time consuming.

 Main Income ?

 Currently the main income including tea, rubber and coconut are replaced by the income from the sweat of the expatriates employed worldwide as the main income of the Nation.  Income from the expatriates fluctuates and unsteady though the investment on this area is only on education and training.  The investment in plantations is substantial and long term.  Our traditional economy and plantation was disturbed by the introduction of tea somewhere in 1824 where a tea plant was brought to Sri Lanka by the British from China.  Tea industry commenced by starting a tea estate in Kandy on 1867 in extent 19 acres of land and the first shipment of 23 pounds arrived in London subsequently.   Today Sri Lanka exports around 318/470 million kilos of tea worldwide to various destinations through the network of distribution points including United Arab Emirates which is one of the richest nations in the world and a main consumer of tea.  Currently UAE is used as a platform and storage for the distribution and publicity in the orbit of the Middle East  which extends to African sub continental Dubai in UAE is one of the busiest harbors and a tiger economy which is active and modern as any other world class economy which has developed very close and friendly ties with Sri Lanka politically and economically.  UAE had close ties with Sri Lanka since 250 BC and trade where economic business movement was effective via the famous silk route.  Today the Silk Route is activated towards Sri Lanka by the “Hambantota Harbour” to which first ship will arrive in November opening the door to cater 36,000 ships sailing through the silk route close to South Sri Lanka which might activate and catalyze the Sri Lanka trade including tea, tourism and development.

 UAE/DUBAI the Hub and Bee Hive of Trade and Business

 It is on this background that steps are being taken to use Dubai in UAE as the base and the hub of tea trade of Sri Lanka which is fast growing to reaching and nearing the zenith. Sri Lanka as a whole is geared to be the Wonder of Asia in few years as targeted by Mahinda Rajapaksa Government via   Mahinda Chintana concept which is the policy document of the Government as the vehicle during this process and undoubtedly Tea and Tourism will play a major role in this development revolution. In the past  Sri Lanka have  been organizing trade fairs, exhibitions, promotional workshops to promote tea and other exportable items.  In 1971 the largest international consumer Exhibition was held in Libya on the 38th Session in Tripoli International Fair in the land area more than 19,000 square meters ceremonially opened by the Minister of Foreign Trade of Morocco where 1,000 local and international exhibitors participated including Sri Lanka covering 39 countries.  This indicates the vigorous campaign then to promote tea and also the enormous potential for the expansion.  Currently we do not require such mega programmes as we are already known respected and established in tea industry as a senior and a reputed member of the tea club.   Tea is a human friendly soft and healthy drink which is affordable and consumer friendly with an enormous potential to expand further.  Therefore there is hardly a competition among the tea growing countries.  What matters and required is a joint effort of the production of tea countries and unified campaign on the health and consumer friendly grounds as against the toxic drinks which are famous among the youngsters which are unhealthy and consumed along with junk food for which multinational companies spend trillions on advertisements to attract children and the other segments of the society.  It is time that the tea growing countries must unite to provide more people friendly and healthy tea and to promote it jointly as against toxic drinks which are harmful to the human beings especially to children.

 Historical Mistakes to be noted

 There is a sad historical aspect behind the tea cultivation in Sri Lanka which the present generation should be aware of.  The parties who introduced tea and the other commercial crops forcibly purchased acquired lands belong to the peasant under tragic circumstances with the intention of promoting international trade on commercial purposes.  Deforestation and soil erosion which are bi products of unplanned and sudden commercial crops is still a main threat to the country. It is time we protect our country and the region from environmental pollution and man made disasters, as the environment in which we live should be protected by for our survival.  It is time that we be conscious of these facts and try to obtain the maximum production out of the existing infrastructure and the lands using modern techniques for which we are fully equipped and knowledgeable.  Sri Lanka is proud of Sri Lanka tea and jealously guards the identity.  There are number of schools of thoughts whether our identity on tea should be maintained or the output/outlook and the constitution  be changed by mixing according to the needs of the world consumer as what matters in trade and consumerism is what consumer needs.  Those are matters which have to be seriously considered by the Sri Lankan Government and the tea machinery.  Fortunately Sri Lanka is fortunate to be gifted with  a group of Politicians and government servants who are qualified and well equipped on tea and tea plantation and trade for this purpose.  The present Minister in charge of tea is one who is dynamic, educated and equipped with practical experience and knowledge on tea plantation trade.  The Chairman Tea Board is a leading business magnate in Sri Lanka and immensely conversant in tea trade and the Tea Board which is the governing body of tea is well equipped with experienced and knowledgeable officers.  Therefore this tea era is the best era for tea and the group is well equipped to take part in the voyage towards the aim of Sri Lanka becoming the Wonder of Asia.

 Tourism and Tea

 It is time for Sri Lanka to link tourism to tea as both segments need publicity.  The tourism in Sri Lanka is booming after the aftermath of terrible war of 30 years which has successfully concluded by the commitment, determination, dedication and strategy of the President and the group around him.  There are no remnants or an iota of terrorism in Sri Lanka for the last one year and there is a guarantee that the country will be stable for the next few decades.   Government in power today is the most powerful and steady Government in the entire Asia which is people friendly with popularity in the zenith.  The surroundings of tea estates are beautiful with nice sceneries, pleasant climate amidst water falls and beautiful network of roads in a climate closer to Wales in England which are attractions for tourists.  Therefore we urge the dynamic Ministers of Trade and Plantations and Tourism to discuss a common strategy to be implemented via the outlets of respective Ministries worldwide with the assistance of the Foreign Missions.  It is also noteworthy to mention that His Excellency has directed that the Foreign Missions have to be geared to the modern developments and the need to the country especially on tourism, trade promotion, employment generation and of course tea promotion.  New era has emerged after a long suffering and the people are entitled to be on the top of the family of nations and with the commitment and hard work of the State and the expatriates it is not   difficult for us to be the wonder of Asia.  After all we have performed miracles by eliminating terrorists and terrorism from Sri Lanka for ever by disproving the myth that we were fighting an unwinable war against the concept that terrorism could not be crushed militarily.  Now it is the time for development, development and develops until we reach our target of the wonder of Asia. 

 sarath8@hotmail.com

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