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Ceylon tea industry facing multiple challenges

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With the Srilankan government’s decision to completely stop the import of chemicals for agriculture including the fertiliser, the tea industry is facing a huge challenge. “But we take this as a positive thing and we are planning to go for 100% organic in another one or two years’ time at Lumbini tea valley”, says Chaminda Jayawardana from Lumbini.

How is the Indian covid strain affecting the tea business in Ceylon?
With india getting into their second wave of covid, in Sri Lanka also we got into the third wave of covid. But the demand for Ceylon tea was ok with the beginning of the year and we did not have a dry period as last year in this year. This year we had rain throughout the beginning months, so our crops increased and because of that the demand was little bit less from the month of February. Due to the third wave of covid, we also had lot of difficulties with working in estates. We have to face lots of difficulties and take safety measures with the workers as well as the farmers. Luckily until now, we are not as bad as india, but we are also reporting so many cases day by day.

How are the tea gardens doing right now?
At the moment we are working with a lot of health precautions in the gardens. The Srilankan government has named the tea industry as one of the essential industries. We are moving forward with the industry and all the sectors of Ceylon tea are working rapidly despite facing the third wave of covid. That is a huge challenge, but I believe the ceylon tea industry will continue without any problems. Our consumers are waiting to drink their quality cup of Ceylon tea while they stay at home.

What do you predict for the Ceylon tea business after the summer sales wise?
I think after the summer we are expecting an increase in the demand for ceylon tea. But at the moment Srilanka agriculture is facing a different challenge. The Srilankan government has completely stopped importing chemicals for agriculture including the fertiliser. This decision was taken by the government to encourage the farmers to go for organic fertiliser. Their vision is to make Sri Lanka a chemical free agriculture country. At Lumbini tea valley we stopped using chemicals 15 years ago and we have only used fertiliser since then. The whole Srilankan tea industry is facing a huge challenge with this decision and the government might loosen this to a certain extent. But we take this as a positive thing and we are planning to go for 100% organic in another one or two years time at Lumbini tea valley. Our first step will be to convert our own gardens into organic gardens and then we are planning to convert our small farmers as well. This will take some time, but we are pretty confident that we can do this.

Do you see any new flavors being introduced after the summer?
Lumbini tea valley is concentrating on creating new tea types in the coming months and we are concentrating more on our artisanal tea types as well. In Sri Lanka, there is a special trend coming up with artisanal (hand crafted tea). A lot of new producers are coming up with the artisanal tea types. Lumbini tea valley is one of the initial artisanal tea producers and have the reputation of winning the first ever gold award for a ceylon artisanal tea in Japan in 2010 for one of the the grades called “JAYACHACKRA” tea. After this we created about 10 varieties of hand made teas and all these teas were created by our fellow workers who are working in the factory. To pay a tribute to them we pay a royalty of 5% of the total revenue for 1kg to the person who creates this special tea. We are planning to expand more of our artisanal tea types and enhance the flavors of normal orthodox black teas as well. This will be our plan for the coming months.

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