16th May 2011, www.dailynews.lk, By Ravi Ladduwahetty
Sri Lanka Tea Council’s (SLTC) new Chairman Merrill J Fernando yesterday implored the government and all industry stakeholders to formulate a 10- year sustainable plan to take the world famous Ceylon Tea to its pristine glory. Sri Lanka’s tea industry has been a sleeping giant over the years and it is high time that all the stakeholders-planters, growers, exporters and brokers united to take the Ceylon Tea brand to its pristine glory, Fernando told Daily News Business.
Fernando, who heads his family-owned MJF Exports, the largest Sri Lankan exporter of value added teas under the world famous Dilmah Teas brand to over 100 countries, also said that the 10-year policy that should be formulated in a manner which should not be changed with changing governments, ministers and bureaucrats. A dialog and consensus should be adopted with all the stakeholders with the Tea Research Institute as well, he said.
He also commended the Sri Lanka Tea Board taking meaningful steps to revive the image of Ceylon Tea and noted that all exporters also should maintain quality standards and homogenous pricing standards.
He also noted that the value additions should benefit the Sri Lankan exporters and not the importer at the other end of the market. It is important to have the Ceylon Tea brand rather than the brand of the importer which is more damaging and a deterrent than exporting bulk teas. They should be packed and shipped out of Sri Lanka and where the benefits of value addition is not taken away from Sri Lanka, he said. Therefore, the Sri Lanka Tea Board campaign is justifiably and rightfully geared to the export of pure Ceylon Tea packed in Sri Lanka, he observed.
“There are instances where there is severe undercutting where there are varying prices adopted by exporters to get lions’ shares of the market which should be avoided. These are mandatory standards and Ceylon Tea should have the Lion logo and if these disciplines are maintained, the Ceylon Tea brand should be revived fast,” he said.
He also stressed the importance of the Tea Commissioner enforcing regulations without fear or favour and underscored the importance of factory capacities being made public, which he said, he believed was for the greater good of the industry.
The need for replanting teas was also stressed, which would add 5 percent year on year to the national output and this is vital in the context of the 318 million kilos of tea achieved last year. “Replanting would bring in the returns in four years and the national production could rise to 340 million kilos, weather permitting,” said Fernando. The Tea Council Chairman also proposed that the members of the 23- Regional Plantation Companies and the Tea Small Holdings Development Authority should make use of the uncultivated lands to add value to the plantations by engaging in value added agri-industry such as vegetable and fruit cultivation and diary farming which will also be revenue yielding.
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