Tea Captain

Director of Gordon Frazer – Niraj de Mel, is poised to take over as CEO of the umbrella body the Tea Association of Sri Lanka.

Appointed last week, he is expected to take over duties from February next year, leading the association for a two-year term, he confirmed.

The Tea Association was formed as an umbrella body for the industry, officially taking off in October this year.

It represents stakeholders from the Plantation Ministry, Planters Association, Tea Exporters Association, Tea Small Holders Association, Brokers Association and the Tea Factory Owners Association

De-Mel worked as Director for tea exporters Gordon Frazer since January this year, following the acquisition by the John Keells Group, of tea export company Bosanquet and Skrine Ltd where he served as Managing Director.

The ideal candidate for the top job was debated in industry circles for months with critics of the view that selecting an unbiased candidate would be a tough call as senior officials who fit the bill would be biased toward the sector they come from.

But all decisions by the apex body are taken by consensus with all stakeholders ensured a fair decision, officials say.

The setting up of three task forces on key focus areas was planned under the new association, with the first study on quality assurance already completed.

The others on marketing of Ceylon Tea and consolidation of factory operations are to follow suit shortly.

This follows recommendations of an ADB funded five-month study by A.T. Keay that dealt with the value addition, brand development and marketing of Ceylon teas.

An Export Marketing Council is to also be set up that will take over Tea Board promotions and include officials from the Export Development Board, the Board of Investment and the new Tourism Bureau.

The Associations activities however are tipped to come at a mammoth cost of approximately US$ 800 000 over a period of three years industry officials say.

Funding is expected to come from donor agencies and monies from the industry cess fund.