Sri Lanka Tea: Tea industry, the main source of foreign exchange in Sri Lanka and bearing the 2 per cent share of GDP of the country has been reeling through a rough patch. Impact of economic slow down and reasons including switching from inorganic to organic farming has hit the production hard in a time when the rates and demand for the tea soared in international market.
With economy showing little signs of recovery and government rolling back its organic farming policy Asian News Makers tries to explore how the tea industry is rolling back to normalcy in a candid chat with Lushantha De Silva, Managing Director/CEO at Hyson Teas Pvt. Ltd. and Managing Director at Empire Teas Pvt. Ltd.
Demands of the Sri Lankan tea industry
Q: How the tea industry is faring in Sri Lanka amidst the economic crisis?
A: The industry is getting back on track after facing the issues we had last year. Fertilizer was the main issue for the loss of production in 2022. All stakeholders in the industry are confident of having a higher production this year.
Q: Sri Lankan tea industry has a great market internationally. Do you think it has a larger role to play in supporting the country’s economy and how much the domestic economy depends on the tea industry?
A: Tea always played a significant in the Sri Lankan economy, even with a 16% production deficit we managed to bring in the same amount of foreign currency into the country in 2021. Further, approx 10% of the population is involved in the industry, which is a great support to the country’s economy.
Q: Do you expect any particular support from the Government?
The major expectation from the Government is to provide fertilizers, manures, and crop medicine to the tea farmers, at subsidized prices and encourage replanting.
Q: How could the marketing be better at the international level so the product gets its due worth?
A: To get the product its due worth, it is important for all tea-producing countries to come on a common portal, for a larger benefit. Besides, the nutritional and lifestyle-related appeal of the product needs to be understood and the marketing communication must be designed accordingly.
Q: Several tea companies across the world are experimenting with the product and introducing ranges such as vegan tea, protein tea, etc. How do you think this would impact the industry?
A: It would hopefully, create a better appeal for the younger customers and give them an option apart from the fizzy drinks.
Q: Anything else that you would like to add?
A: The industry needs to embrace the changes on the digital front, work to conserve the climate, and support all the underprivileged involved in the industry to form a stronger ecosystem.