Cup That Cheers

New apex body for the tea industry, the Tea Association of Sri Lanka (TASL) officially got off ground Tuesday, mapping out plans to set the industry standard for tea.

The TASL will steer through all strategy and policy development for the sector acting also as a catalyst for product development and research

Through promotion and image building of Ceylon tea as well as quality and productivity improvements, a 25 percent increase in revenue is targeted over the next few years.

“When you talk of increased market share, a mere increase in quantity does not necessarily mean that we have a substantial share in the market” , said Chairman of the Colombo Tea Traders Association Mahen Dayananda.

“Last year we reached record levels of tea production at about 315 mn kilos. But this does not mean that we have achieved our required increase in quality” .

“Our orthodox teas are held at a great premium by other markets, fetching a price of Rs. 20 a kilo ahead of other orthodox producers. An increase in revenue by 25-30 percent due to an increase in value is a reasonable target” , he added.

Currently, only 35 percent pf the total crop production is value added, with the remaining 65 percent in bulk form.

A quality certification program is also on the cards with a quality certification standard to be developed by an internationally accredited standards agency.

“One apex body will also strengthen inter stakeholder, inter institution links” , Chairman of TASL, Rohan Feando said.

“It has taken the industry more than a century to take the logical step of haessing the synergies of all stakeholders towards a common goal. It is about time that the industry united to put Sri Lanka on the map in generic and brand terms” , he added.

This follows the success stories of other now famous national industries from Colombian coffee to South African wine and now hopefully to Ceylon tea.

“The Sri Lankan tea industry is one of the biggest in the world. However the industry comprises of about six different stakeholder groups with diverse interests and differing priorities” , Plantation Minister Lakshman Kiriella said.

“The success of implementing any common long term strategy will lie in the ability of the industry to work together to spearhead activities”, Kiriella said.

Locally, the creation of a single voice for industry is to be extended to the coconut sector as well where industry representation is very fragmented, he added.

Backed by the Asian Development Bank, a total of Rs. 200 mn of largely donor funds is being channelled into the association over the next five years, through the Plantation Reform and Plantation Development Projects.

This will be supported by Tea Board cess funds and fee-based activities that are to be introduced in the longer term, Fernando added.

Implementation and funding plans have already been mapped out until 2006.