Tea production in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka (formerly called Ceylon) has a climate and varied elevation that allows for the production of both Camellia sinensis var. assamica and Camellia sinensis var. sinensis, with the assamica varietal holding the majority of production. Tea production is one of the main sources of foreign exchange for Sri Lanka, and accounts for 2% of GDP, contributing over US$1.5 billion in 2013 to the economy of Sri Lanka.[1] It employs, directly or indirectly, over 1 million people, and in 1995 directly employed 215,338 on tea plantations and estates. In addition, tea planting by smallholders is the source of employment for thousands whilst it is also the main form of livelihoods for tens of thousands of families. Sri Lanka is the world's fourth-largest producer of tea. In 1995, it was the world's leading exporter of tea (rather than producer), with 23% of the total world export, but it has since been surpassed by Kenya. The highest production of 340 million kg was recorded in 2013, while the production in 2014 was slightly reduced to 338 million kg.[2]

Tea plantation (Dambatenne estates) at about 1800 m above sea level in Haputale, Hill Country

The humidity, cool temperatures, and rainfall of the country's central highlands provide a climate that favors the production of high-quality tea. On the other hand, tea produced in low-elevation areas such as Matara, Galle and Ratanapura districts with high rainfall and warm temperature has high level of astringent properties. The tea biomass production itself is higher in low-elevation areas. Such tea is popular in the Middle East. The industry was introduced to the country in 1867 by James Taylor, a British planter who arrived in 1852.[3][4][5][6][7][8][9] Tea planting under smallholder conditions has become popular in the 1970s.

History

Old Ceylon tea tin

The total population of Sri Lanka according to the census of 1871 was 2,584,780. The 1871 demographic distribution and population in the plantation areas is given below:[10]

Kandy District, the heartland of tea production in Sri Lanka
1871 demographic distribution
DistrictTotal
population
No. of
estates
Estate
population
 % of population
on estates
Kandy District258,43262581,47631.53
Badulla District129,00013015,55512.06
Matale District71,72411113,05218.2
Kegalle District105,287403,7903.6
Sabaragamuwa92,277373,2273.5
Nuwara Eliya District36,184213080.85
Kurunegala District207,885212,3931.15
Matara District143,379111,0720.75
Total1,044,168996123,65411.84

Growth and history of commercial production

Henry Randolph Trafford, one of the pioneers of tea cultivation in Ceylon in the 1880s

Registered tea production by elevation

Registered tea production in hectares and total square miles by elevation category in Sri Lanka, 1959–2000:[10]

YearHigh
altitude
hectares
Medium
altitude
hectares
Low
altitude
hectares
Total
hectares
Total
square
miles
1959 74,58166,71146,101187,393723.5
1960 79,58669,48248,113197,181761.3
1961 76,55797,52163,644237,722917.8
1962 76,70797,85764,661239,225923.7
1963 76,15795,69165,862237,710917.8
1964 81,53892,28165,759239,578925.0
1965 87,34592,80660,365240,516928.6
1966 87,51493,30560,563241,382932.0
1967 87,52093,87260,945242,337935.7
1968 81,14499,35961,292241,795933.6
1969 81,09298,67561,616241,383932.0
1970 77,54998,62465,625241,798933.6
1971 77,93698,62465,625242,185935.1
YearHigh
altitude
hectares
Medium
altitude
hectares
Low
altitude
hectares
Total
hectares
Total
square
miles
1972 77,63998,25265,968241,859933.8
1973 77,79398,16566,343242,301935.5
1974 77,69397,87566,622242,190935.1
1975 79,33798,44664,099241,882933.9
1976 79,87794,33866,363240,578928.9
1977 79,65394,83567,523242,011934.4
1978 79,62895,59168,023243,242939.2
1979 78,61497,08468,401244,099942.5
1980 78,78696,95068,969244,705944.8
1981 78,62196,85369,444244,918945.6
1982 77,76996,64467,728242,141934.9
1983 71,95990,27267,834230,065888.3
1984 74,15790,20363,514227,874879.8
YearHigh
altitude
hectares
Medium
altitude
hectares
Low
altitude
hectares
Total
hectares
Total
square
miles
1985 74,70689,17567,769231,650894.4
1986 73,20685,21664,483222,905860.6
1987 72,77384,44564,280221,498855.2
1988 72,90184,22764,555221,683855.9
1989 73,11084,06264,938222,110857.6
1990 73,13883,22365,397221,758856.2
1991 73,33182,46765,893221,691856.0
1992 74,14185,51062,185221,836856.5
1994 51,44356,15579,711187,309723.2
1995 51,44356,15579,711187,309723.2
1996 52,27256,86379,836188,971729.6
1997 51,44458,15579,711189,310730.9
1998 51,44458,15579,711189,310730.9
2000 52,27256,86379,836188,971729.6

Main destination of Sri Lankan teas

The most important foreign markets for Sri Lankan tea are the former Soviet bloc countries of the CIS, the United Arab Emirates, Russia, Syria, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, the UK, Egypt, Libya and Japan.[11]

The most important foreign markets for Sri Lankan tea are as follows, in terms of millions of kilograms and millions of pounds imported. The figures were recorded in 2000:[10]

Sacks of tea ready to be shipped
Total Exports

Country
Million
kilograms
Million
pounds
Percent
of total
CIS Countries57.6127.020
UAE48.1106.016.7
Russia46.1101.616.01
Syria21.547.47.47
Turkey20.344.87.05
Iran12.527.64.34
Saudi Arabia11.425.13.96
Iraq11.124.53.85
UK10.222.53.54
Egypt10.122.33.51
Libya10.022.03.47
Japan8.318.32.88
Germany5.011.01.74
Others23.752.28.23
Total288634.9100

Branding

The Lion Logo of Ceylon tea

The Sri Lanka Tea Board is the legal proprietor of the lion logo of Ceylon tea. The logo has been registered as a trademark in many countries. In order to appear the Lion logo on a tea pack, it must meet four criteria.

  1. The Lion Logo can only be used on consumer packs of Ceylon tea.
  2. The packs must contain 100 percent of pure Ceylon tea.
  3. The packaging should be done only in Sri Lanka.
  4. The brands which employ the Lion logo should meet the quality standards set by the Sri Lanka Tea Board.[12]

The logo is considered to be a "known sign of a high quality" around the world.[13] The Sri Lanka Tea board signed an agreement to sponsor Sri Lanka national cricket team and Sri Lanka women's national cricket team in their overseas tours for US$ 4 million for three years.[14]

Research

The Tea Research Institute

The Tea Research Ordinance was enacted by Parliament in 1925 and the Tea Research Institute (TRI) was founded. It is at present the only national body in the country that generates and disseminates new research and technology related to the processing and cultivation of tea.[15]

Beginning in the early 1970s, two researchers from the National Institute of Dental Research in Bethesda, Maryland, USA conducted a series of research projects in which they arranged a longitudinal study group of a large number of Tamil tea labourers who worked at the Dunsinane and Harrow Tea Estates, 80 kilometres (50 mi) from Kandy. This landmark study was possible because the population of tea labourers were known to have never employed any conventional oral hygiene measures, thereby providing some insight into the natural history of periodontal disease in man.[16]

Sustainability standards and certifications

There are a number of organisations, both international and local, that promote and enforce sustainability standards and certifications pertaining to tea in Sri Lanka.

Among the international organisations that operate within Sri Lanka are Rainforest Alliance, Fairtrade, UTZ Certified and Ethical Tea Partnership. The Small Organic Farmers’ Association (SOFA) is a local organisation dedicated to organic farming.

See also

  • Akbar Tea
  • Dilmah
  • George Steuart Group (Steuarts Tea, 1835 Steuarts Ceylon)
  • Heladiv
  • Island Tea
  • Loolecondera
  • Mlesna
  • Thomas Lipton

References

  1. Sri Lanka Export Development Board, 2014, Industry Capability Report: Tea Sector, http://www.srilankabusiness.com/pdf/industrycapabilityreport_tea_sector.pdf Archived 2015-09-24 at the Wayback Machine
  2. Central Bank of Sri Lanka, 2014, Annual Report, http://www.cbsl.gov.lk/pics_n_docs/10_pub/_docs/efr/annual_report/AR2014/English/content.htm Archived 2015-08-03 at the Wayback Machine
  3. "TED Case Studies – Ceylon Tea". American University, Washington, DC. Archived from the original on 23 February 2015. Retrieved 27 November 2013.
  4. "Sri Lanka tops tea sales". BBC. 1 February 2002. Archived from the original on 3 May 2008. Retrieved 28 April 2008.
  5. "Sri Lanka Tea Tour". The Tea Association of the USA. 11–17 August 2003. Archived from the original on 17 April 2011. Retrieved 5 April 2008.
  6. "Role of Tea in Development in Sri Lanka". United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. Archived from the original on 6 October 2008.
  7. "South Asia Help for Sri Lanka's tea industry". BBC News. 4 April 1999. Archived from the original on 30 June 2009. Retrieved 5 April 2008.
  8. "Sri Lanka moves to protect tea industry". BBC News. 19 February 2003. Archived from the original on 7 April 2008. Retrieved 5 April 2008.
  9. "Just 64p a day for tea pickers in Sri Lanka". BBC News. 20 September 2005. Archived from the original on 30 June 2009. Retrieved 5 April 2008.
  10. Holsinger, Monte (2002). "Thesis on the History of Ceylon Tea". History of Ceylon Tea. Archived from the original on 19 June 2009. Retrieved 25 April 2009.
  11. "Sri Lanka tops tea sales". BBC. 1 February 2002. Archived from the original on 2 May 2004. Retrieved 25 April 2009.
  12. "Tea from Sri Lanka" (PDF). Sri Lanka Export Development Board. Retrieved 27 March 2021.
  13. Johnsson, S. (23 May 2016). "The green gold from Sri Lanka" (PDF). Linnaeus University. p. 43. Retrieved 27 March 2021.
  14. "Ceylon Tea - The Official Overseas Sponsor of Sri Lanka Cricket". srilankateaboard.lk. Sri Lanka Tea Board. 7 January 2015. Retrieved 27 March 2021.
  15. Who we are Archived 2017-04-27 at the Wayback Machine, Tea Research Institute - Sri Lanka, Retrieved April 2017
  16. Löe, H, et al. Natural history of periodontal disease in humans. J Clin Perio 1986;13:431–440.

Further reading

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