Posted on April 2nd, 2018

Sarath Wijesinghe – former Ambassador UAE and Israel

Tea is our pride

Tea is our pride for which we are proud of as the leading exporter to the world has come down below due to our own mistakes, we are now trying to solve victoriously. Other exporters to the world are Kenya, India, China, apart from other countries such as Vietnam, and Myanmar where tea is grown is considerable short supply. Introduced 150 years ago (1884) with tea smuggled by British Colonial rulers from China as a merchandise crop for them to export to the colonies worldwide, by disturbing and destabilizing our tank based agriculture, by clearing 400000 acres of land, and unlimited jungles were cleared and the properties of peasants were acquired by an act to take over at cheapest prices of few pence’s per acre, developed a road network and factories in upcountry for their benefit followed by low lying areas subsequently resulting soil erosion, change of climatic conditions including pattern of rain, and long term side effects on the agriculture crops countrywide with side effects of entering poisonous fertilizer to the rivers emerging from hills. Our Tea of 2.5 of the GDP with income of 1.5 billion dollars being the 4th large producer, exporting quality tea largely purchased by Russia, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, USA, China, Japan Germany and many states worldwide maintaining a good will and a brand with excellent quality and unique taste. Episodes with Russia due to one insect in a consignment, mixing with powered waste tea, lack of vision and proper advertising methods when we have 52 Embassies worldwide at the cost of the tax payer money are recoverable drawbacks with a proper leadership the Minister appears to be working on. It is the mandate/duty of the Minister Ministry and the governance to work hard to recover the lost glory and pride to be the leading export of the best quality again.

Most consumed liquid next to water

Tea is the most consumed liquid of the mankind next to water grown in many parts of the world as a commercial crop with Sri Lanka, which needs large acre of land and labor for a better yield. In Sri Lanka other sources of income have emerged such as foreign employment which brings a considerable amount to our GDP out of the foreign labor force spread worldwide in place of traditional tea, rubber, coconut, with new challenges to Sri Lanka to look for new and innovative sources or to improve quality and productivity of traditional crops still in demand if presented with modern innovations and value additions. Sri Lanka with excellent rainfall, humidity, cool temperature in upcountry and moderate temperature in down hills is a contributory factor to produce quality and unique teas of diversity unlike other brands in the competing countries while maintaining orthodox nature using traditional physical methods in planting and picking up and packing are contributory factors for the quality of our pride Sri Lankan Tea also known as Ceylon tea.

Standards expected

Differed standards and qualities are expected in different counties due to varying needs of the consumer demands in the midst of many other beverages in trade war such as coffee, junk sugary beverages in the markets backed by ferocious advertising campaigns buying over governments and multinational companies. United Kingdom, USA and the West requires quality, traditional tea in the traditional way prioritizing quality over the price, which is not the case in countries like Russia and Middle East where they prefer tea bag concept for which different kind of tea could be utilized. Sri Lanka Tea Board being the main regulator, promoter, and the government representative on tea will be planning enhancing the tea production and sale worldwide with the Ministry of Plantations and the private sector introducing new models and strategies for manufacture, promotion and regulatory feathers which is a complicated process of decision-making on policies, production, distribution, and regulation.

Production and propagation

Production of tea is conducted by large and small holders with the network of over 740 tea factories now managing with hardships with labor issues, fluctuation of prices, outdate and old specialized machineries used only in tea industry, taxes, and difficulties in selling the products in complicated tea auctions conducted under peculiar circumstances with no say or control to us. Once lucrative industry/plantation today has transformed into a limping horse when the competitors of Sri Lanka has overstepped us hijacking our own experience and technology developed with modern innovations and decades long experiences, despite the fact that the tea produced in many countries are still not quality and up to Sri Lankan standards due to lack of fortunate climatic and other unique circumstance Sri Lanka is fortunate with. Propagation of tea is done by the Ministry of Trade, Tea Board, Ministry if Plantations and government machinery in a hap – hazed manner with no proper or organized plan of action linked to the Embassies spread worldwide with Ambassadors and Staff expected to promote SrI Lankan products and goodwill as a main duty as a part of diplomatic relations with the rest of the world. To what extent the State is making use of the Embassies on propagation of Sri Lankan products and tea is a moot issue.

Used as a Blending Hub

There is a proposal from some schools of thoughts that Sri Lanka could be used as a Blending Hub”, permitting foreign tea companies to import tea to be blended with Sri Lanka for re- export. There is strong protest from quality Sri Lankan products that it will devalue the reputation of Sri Lankan tea and leave room to misuse the goodwill generated for decades with irreparable and irrecoverable loss when the Sri Lankan machinery is finding difficult to propagate the existing good will generated with tourism and the favorable conditions in the country. On the other hand the new methods and machineries are in the hands of the multinational companies in the blending process leaving Sri Lankan sector helpless. Any way blending is conducted in UK and Middle East using the Sri Lankan original Tea with little resistance from Sri Lanka due to inefficient and inert attitude of the governance. France which is the center and Hub of wine will not allow foreign wine to import for blending but blending continues exporting is blended quality wine to the world.

Labor, Fertilizer, water, drought, and land issues

Labor has become a major issue with difficulties to find new labor looking for new and better avenues more recognized in the society. Estate schools are well equipped and the products are

seeking government jobs or at least to be a three wheel driver to be self-employed, and add to the one million three wheel forces stationed in junctions with a smart phone. Land is shrinking due to fragmentation, distribution to the workers instead of constructing communes so save land, nonuse under use or neglect, and lack or non-availability of proper fertilizer which is a main disputed issue on use of Glyphosate are main contribute factors of reduction of the crops and declining the development of the tea industry. Water is in short supply due to drying of water resources and water falls due to de – forestation, environmental destructions, arbitrarily diverting water canals affects the industry heavily for want of water which is the main ingredient for the tea planation.

Tea as a Beverage

Tea is not properly used as a sophisticated beverage as coca cola, Pepsi Nescafe or similar drinks which are unhealthy, expensive and unnatural products are thriving. Tea is popular as a fast healthy and natural drink in many parts of the world. Tea is a natural and a harmless drink and it is time tea research institute develop innovative methods to popularize instant hot/cool healthy tea in Sri Lanka and outside world. Green tea, cold tea, ginger tea, and other modes are kinds of teas of not high quality which is cheap and popular in food chains worldwide. Tea is expensive in UK and USA and consumed in style on traditional functions using the best and expensive tea. Still Sri Lankan tea is reputed and popular despite sale of dust and adulterated by errant traders small and large. In Sri Lanka tea is consumed with milk and excess sugar which is unhealthy and in the absence of original pleased original aroma. In villages plain tea with Jiggery is healthy and popular in chains if small shops countrywide.

Way out to promote preserve and enhance our pride- TEA”

Though colonial masters have disturbed/destroyed our agriculture, and culture based economy for their benefit inheriting a different culture and economy dependent on outside world in place of self-sufficiency, it is too late for us to revert back to the agro economy, and should think of a strategy identifying the areas we failed with mistakes before. The Minister wisely and correctly declined to the proposal for Indiana labor which would have been another historical tragedy we solved at a high cost burden forced us by the colonial masters, which would have given rice to endless problems again. Innovative methods should be adopted to popularize and attract labor by raising standards, salaries based on incentives and future prospects to the family. Sri Lanka can consider to follow the concept of Kibbutz” cluster of economic groups on innovations in Israel ( Kibbutz a cluster of economic and development groups – communes-with all facilities within shared by all members which is the startup nucleus of new Israel now a world power and leaders in agriculture and innovations), and drip irrigation utilizing 95% technology in agriculture/water management with concept of adding treated water drops with fertilizer to the root( not entire soil) with controlled water drops, while saving the land preventing large land areas for housing schemes, housing schemes with all modern facilities will attract young to be a part of new tea culture based on economic benefits with education with Kibbutz clusters beneficial to the members and the nation at large solving cluster of problems for a better tea revolution based on new innovations. (Reading materials- Tea Russia and Sri Lanka dispute Telegraph 19/12/2017- Tea is our pride SL guardian 30/7/2012/ Author who is the former Ambassador to UAE and Israel could be contacted on Sarath7@hotmail.co.uk)

4 Responses to “TEA IS OUR PRIDE”

  1. Christie Says:

    Tea is the poison of British-Indian Empire used to wipe out the locals.

    Sugar for tea is the other poison.

    Ceylon and Kenya are good example where tea poisoned the local inhabitants.

    Mauritius, Fiji, Guyana are where sugar poisoned the local inhabitants.

    Tea and Sugar continues to poison and destroy the local inhabitants.

    Indian Colonial parasites proper with tea and sugar in Indian colonies.

  2. Dilrook Says:

    Tea is our shame!

    I cannot fathom how anyone can argue tea is our pride when clearly it is not. It is our shame.

    Tea industry is based on exploitation. It exploits labour – some of the worst exploited labour in the island. Until around 1970s these people were subjected to inhuman conditions. Since then they are treated better but still living in deplorable conditions.

    The environmental damage is beyond comprehension. A massive area of rainforests and catchment areas have been destroyed by the tea industry. It adds tones of poison to the eco system every year, particularly to waterways. Economically it is unviable too. State subsidizes tea industry to the tune of billions of rupees a year in direct subsidies alone. When these costs are factored in, tea industry is not just unprofitable but also creates a foreign trade deficit. All machinery, most fuel, a large amount of consumption goods of its workforce (including their staple food) is imported. The paltry $1.3 billion gross earnings from tea industry pales into insignificance. The sooner this exploitative and destructive industry is allowed to collapse under market forces, the better.

    As another commentator points out sugar goes with tea and 20% of Sri Lankans are diabetic. Another large percentage suffer iron deficiency as tea inhibits iron absorption. While tea drinking has its benefits, its downside must also be discussed. As tea drinking habit became popular, traditional drinks including beli, divul, polpala, etc. went out of fashion. These drinks are far more healthy than tea. They also don’t require enegy to heat which is an environmental pollutant.

  3. Christie Says:

    The worst damage done by coffee and tea industry is the influx of the Indian Colonial Parastes.

    They are well housed and have regular income.

    Compare it to the Sinhalese who lost their land and lively hood.

    They have bred out the Sinhalese in tandem with other Indians.

  4. Nimal Says:

    Yes we are proud of our tea thanks to the colonials.

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