Hustle Behind TEA Tussle
May I be permitted to respond to the article appearing in news media entitled, Tea Tussle. This report gives coverage to a Press interview by some members of the Tea Exporters Association. In the first instance The Tea Exporters Association(TEA) has no unanimity in regard to the position taken by them to permit the import of orthodox teas to Sri Lanka. Already some senior members of the Association have disassociated themselves most categorically with the sentiments expressed by those in the forefront. The press statements seeks to place the position of the Sri Lankan tea Industry, in very bad light and also attempts to mislead the reading public of your esteemed paper.
The statement states inter alia ’The country’ s export share in the world Market should be expanded to avoid deterioration of Sri Lanka’s position as a major tea exporting nation’.
The Sri Lankan teas fetch the highest price for tea in the world tea Market, when the prices obtained for our teas are compared with the prices realised by other producing countries. Every single kilo produced in our country is fiercely competed for and sold. Nothing is left unsold. So what Pray, is the problem the TEA is seeking to address. There is nothing wrong with the quality of our tea,what needs to be increased is the volume of the harvests.We can of course improve the Prices FURTHER by more careful supervision of our plucking rounds and standards of manufacture!
When you import tea into Sri Lanka mix it with Ceylon tea and re export it, how is the overall revenue going to increase. The tea imported has to be paid for with valuable foreign currency. It is then re-exported mixed with greater or lesser quantities of Ceylon tea.How then is the country’export income going to improve.
On the countrary the presence of cheaper tea is most positively going to depress the price for our teas. There were many exclusive Sri Lankan brands which went for the blending option with cheaper teas from Vietnam and other origins.They have not only lost Market share but also the reputation that they enjoyed for over 3 decades.nYes, of course our teas are more expensive, this because our quality is far superior.
This attempt by some members of the TEA to blend the Sri Lankan tea with cheaper foreign teas is frought with many dangers. If permitted they will be forced to eventually reduce the component of Ceylon tea, because tea from other origins are cheaper and the blenders who are acting for foreigners make more money. It is the foreign brand owners who will determine the the component of Ceylon tea that will go into the blend. They then gradually manipulate the blend configuration making almost imperceptible reductions in taste by increasing very gradually the component of cheaper tea. By this time the consumer has gradually got used to the poorer taste and will then be prepared to accept the cheaper poorer tea sold by these packers.
Before we know what has hit us the demand for Ceylon tea will decline. This will be the consequence of this move if allowed by the government of Sri Lanka.
It is important for the people of our country to understand the present situation in the world of tea.China is the biggest producer of tea, most of their production is taken up by their own population, adding to this dilemma Chinese teas have been found to contain very high insecticide and pesticide residues as per a Greenpeace report. Even the Chinese are reluctant to buy their own tea and the demand from China for Ceylon tea is increasing. India exports very little,their tea too is taken up for internal consumption of a billion people. Bangaldesh has virtually stopped exports. Some selected brands of pure Ceylon tea are galloping forward in the Indian and Chinese markets.
Vietnam teas are good looking teas but the taste is absolutely inferior to our tea.
It is the Vietnamese teas that will present the biggest opportunity for these adventurers as those teas look similar to our tea but is quite inferior. The vietnamese Tea would be far far cheaper than our tea.In fact the biggest fraud was perpetrated by a leading company by bringing in Vietnamese tea at half the cost of Ceylon tea and selling it masquerading as Ceylon tea, at the Colombo Tea auction. So much for the regulation and controls that the Tea is talking about.
How on earth can we increase our presence in the world tea market by encouraging and selling tea from Vietnam or China. What would happen to the reputation of out tea If the tea imported from Vietnam or China is found with a high occurrence of insecticides or pesticides. Quite apart from enhancing our Market share we will lose for all time our reputation as the cleanest tea in the world. This must be an overriding factor that must receive the careful attention of the proponents for imports!
The TEA states again that we are unable to increase the tea production in our country. How do they come to this conclusion? On what do they base their comments. The tea soils in Sri Lanka are increasingly becoming more and more acidic, to correct this situation is as easy as falling off a log. If and when we decide to correct this situation, the RPC’s and the small holders will register a dramatic rise in the crop it can go up by as much as 20- 30%.What more do you want?
I have PH values tested on numerous small holdings that will prove the validity of my statement.
I do not wish to enter into a confrontational argument with the tea. What is this Hub they are talking about. We are not a blending HUB. Let’s make this a production hub. Let’s produce the most elegant teas in the world in our country and let us get even better and higher prices for our tea. The room is at the top. There is no competition at the top, it is for the dregs that The TEA will be eventually fighting for.
Ashamed tea appears to be the focus of the TEA. Make no mistake Ashamed tea left our shores but they desperately want to come back. Many meetings were held in Dubai and London with our officials. Is this the’ voice of Joseph but the hand of Esau.’
The reasons why they want to come back are too numerous to mention in this response but we are willing to discuss this with the TEA.
The excuse that TEA is making is that Sri Lanka has permitted the export of some select teas for reexport. This must be stopped and even this small quantity must be disallowed. There is no tea that cannot be replicated in Sri Lanka. To make a CTC tea similar to the Kenyan’s is not difficult at all.
The TEA is self contradictory. They say that their intention is not to import cheap tea to Sri Lanka ( Niraj De Mel). Then Anslem Perera goes to contradict his chairman.’ there is huge Market which consumes teas which are considered mediocre and sold at lower prices’ Oh this tangled web you weave when you first chose to deceive. ‘Prevarication is manifestly clear.
The TEA then makes the most preposterous statement which attempts clearly to insult the Sri Lankan public, ‘throughout 365 days you do not get the same weather, so maintaining the quality of the tea leaves plucked throughout the year is an impossible task.’
How ridiculous is this statement. Sri Lanka assumed the status of the best tea producer in the world for the last 145 years. How was this done if this statement is true. There are seasonal teas which fetch a high price precisely because they are seasonal. If they are of the same quality everyday of the year there will be no quality or flavory season. If every car produced in the world was a Rolls Royce, it will no longer enjoy the premium price or the quality status.
Anyway 75 % of the production of the country comes from the small holder sector which is mainly in the low country. There are only marginal fluctuations of weather. A regular consistent tea therefore can be made from 75% of our production within a margin of + or – 5 %.
I make this plea albeit a desperate one. Please do not permit the import of a single kilo of tea to Sri Lanka. This is our most precious possession, it has stood the test of time for 150 years and has the potential to last forever, if we look after our plantations.
However the government must consider deploying the funds collected from the tea cess scheme to encourage and support promoters of Branded pure Ceylon tea.
Finally it is the small holders and the RPC’s who have invested billions of dollars on land, plant, and machinery. It is they and they alone who must decide how best their tea is to be marketed.
G. M. Wanigasekara
Nandana Tea Factory