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Ceylon Tea: Sri Lanka's gift to the worldMonday, February 05, 2018 > 09:12:07
The country is the world's fourth largest producer of tea and the third largest exporter
The tea industry of Sri Lanka celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2017. The commercial cultivation of tea commenced in 1867, fortuitously supplanting coffee, which till then, was the country's main cash crop. A Scotsman named James Taylor is reputed to have developed the first commercial plantation and commenced the manufacture of tea on Loolcondera Estate, Hewaheta. He was followed by other pioneers who not only contributed agriculturally, but also helped to create the infrastructure, which continues to facilitate the supply chain of this great industry.
For over 100 years, the tea industry sustained the economy of this country and continues to contribute significantly to it. Despite being currently eclipsed by one or two other revenue-earning sources that emerged in recent years, it is still one of the highest foreign exchange earners for the country, contributing over $1.5 billion.
The tea industry also supports approximately 20 per cent of the country's population, through direct and indirect employment, outsourcing and dependent families, which extends to a number of ancillary industries, such as shipping, transportation, printing, packaging, etc. Additionally, tea contributes 15 per cent of the nation's foreign exchange earnings and generates 65 per cent of export agriculture revenue.
Sri Lanka has pursued a path of producing pre-dominantly orthodox teas with a range of exclusive grades in order to differentiate itself from competitors. Sri Lanka is the largest exporter of orthodox black tea to the world and is globally famous as Ceylon Tea. Although, value-added tea exports from Sri Lanka has been showing a gradual upward trend during the past few decades.
Tea production is of high importance to the Sri Lankan economy and the world market. The country is the world's fourth largest producer of tea and the third largest exporter.
The Sri Lanka Tea Board, in collaboration with the Colombo Tea Traders' Association, organised several celebratory events to coincide with the sesquicentennial anniversary, throughout the year 2017. These included:
- The unveiling of a sculptured bust of James Taylor at the head office of the Sri Lanka Tea Board on the January 19, 2017.
- The release of an Rs10 coin on July 12, 2017 to commemorate this anniversary.
- A first day cover and series of stamps were issued on July 13, 2017.
- A series of educational fairs were conducted in all seven tea producing regions to serve as an outreach programme to the local community. This was held in an endeavour to infuse better understanding of the tea industry to the country, its importance, and career opportunities, and to create an awareness of the significance of this historic event. Under this series, educational fairs were conducted in Nuwaraeliya, Pilimathalawa, Badulla, Yatiyanthota and Kothmale areas.
- Sri Lanka Tea Board with private sector stakeholders organised a Newum Tea Festival in many regions on May 11, 2017.
- A 'Grand Charity Tea Auction' was held on July 20, 2017, the entire proceeds of which will be invested in charitable projects, benefitting the workforce of the plantation sector.
- An International Colombo Tea Convention was held from August 9 to 11, 2017, with approximately 300 overseas delegates, apart from significant local participation. Literary presentations were delivered by eminent personalities in the Global Tea Trade and the International Business Arena from overseas and Sri Lanka. They shared expertise and experience in a wide spectrum of relevant disciplines, setting the tone for stimulating discussions and sharing of diverse views, with competent moderators regulating the different session. Along with the Colombo Tea Convention, other international events were held in Colombo that attracted more international participation from both producer and consumer countries.
- Immediately preceding the Convention, the Inter Session meeting of the FAO/IGG on Tea was held in Cinnamon Grand Hotel, Colombo on August 12 and 13, 2017.
- CRT International Exhibition 2017 was held from August 11 to 13, 2017 at BMICH to enable exporters, manufacturers, producers and service providers in the tea, rubber and coconut industries, both local and international to showcase their products and services.
- CRT seminar session titled "Innovations in Tea" was conducted on August 11, 2017 at the Mihilaka Madura of the BMICH. The target audience of more than 275 participants comprised stakeholders of the tea industry, as well as university students. Dr. Rohan Pethiyagoda, Chairman of SLTB, moderated the seminar and eight guest speakers participated at this event, including three international speakers.
- The Tea Festival was held on August 12 last year to promote amongst tourists and Sri Lankans the uniqueness of Ceylon Tea and the tea culture, through a festive atmosphere. It was held with a focus on street events, featuring tea stalls, food stalls and entertainment, including performances depicting tea related activities. It is intended that this will become an annual event in the future.