How is the Ceylon tea industry coping with Covid?

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Covid has been challenging for the Ceylon tea industry, and Lumbini Tea Valley in particular. But once the Srilankan government declared tea as an essential industry, plans were made. “Quality will be the way forward and artisanal and specialty teas will become a trend in 2021”, says Chaminda from Lumbini Tea Valley.

How do you look back on 2020?
2020 was a very challenging year for the Ceylon tea industry, but also we realized that the good things coming out from challenges only. In the beginning just after Covid came,we were having a doubt whether we will continue work or stop, but then the government declared tea as an essential industry. So we had to start work with all the Covid control measures with our workforce.
And there was another challenge whether to go on with the physical auction or not. Then as a solution the tea board of Sri Lanka and the Ceylon tea trades association along with the Sri Lanka tea factory owners association came up with the online auction system.
In Lumbini,we improved our quality to a very high level thinking that this was the best time to improve more on quality and produce the best teas. As an industry I think we stood up really well in 2020 despite the Covid 19.

How hard was it in the tea business?
As I said it was really tough. We had to look after our own work force and as well as about 1400 small farmers who supply their leaf to us. And along with that we had to process good quality tea. With much advice and the support of the government health authorities we were able to overcome the challenge and do the job.

What do you expect business wise for 2021?
I see 2021 will be a more challenging year. We are still facing the second wave and the new British variant. But what I see is there is a good appreciation for quality tea in the market and there is a new trend building up in manufacturing specialty ceylon teas.
A new Association came up called Ceylon artisanal tea association and in that there are seven founder members including Lumbini tea valley. Srilankan tea industry will focus on quality more and more in this year for sure.
And apart from this the Srilankan government has funded to establish about 100 tea nurseries to create sufficient plants for replanting to replace the old bushes. This project will also be a very successful one.

What will the trends be in tea for 2021? Any examples
As I explained to you, the quality will be the way forward and the artisanal and specialty teas will become a trend in 2021. Ceylon tea will be recognized as one of the best quality teas in the world with the introduction of specialty and artisanal teas. And the main thing is,the manufacturers are really interested in going forward with manufacturing good quality tea.

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