Industry reps removed from key tea promo committee
With the Sri Lanka tea industry just months away from launching its much-awaited global promotional campaign in September, a number of stakeholder representatives have been removed from the Promotion and Marketing Committee (PMC) said to be due to certain “structural changes” required by authorities.
Plantations Minister Navin Dissanayake on June 7 had informed the respective stakeholder associations that their representatives have been removed from the PMC. The PMC is the committee that looks into how the funds of the promotional levy is being used and grants approval for these projects.
In this respect, four representatives had been removed from the committee. However, it is uncertain as to the reasons for the removal of these persons.
During meetings, members had raised concerns about the manner in which the fund monies were used for different projects; and there had been complaints that the fund was not used for the purpose of promotion and marketing but just lying around in the state coffers.
Some claim that the PMC was using funds for reasons appearing for a political reason other than promotional and marketing campaign.
However, Tea Board Chairman Lucille Wijewardena told the Business Times that the tea industry required representation from all sectors like the tea growers, the tea manufacturers, tea exporters and the brokers and it was in this respect that the minister realized that there was only one set of stakeholder representation at the PMC.
As a result Mr. Wijewardena said the changes were carried out as part of a restructuring of the committee. He also noted that payments from the fund were used only for the promotion of the industry and in fact recently the Nuwara Eliya tea festival too was carried out with this intention. He also noted that they had established an office which was also opened on this occasion in Nuwara Eliya.
He asserted that this had attracted a number of tourists and locals to the festival in the hill country and that it was also a part of a corporate social responsibility (CSR) activity to encourage more workers to participate in this welfare event.
The Chairman also pointed out that there were too many representatives from the same association and as a result they wanted to ensure increased participation of all including the tea factory owners and the tea smallholders as well which was the reason to reconstitute the PMC.
But industry sources complain that tea promotion funds were once used to establish the now defunct Tea Café during the previous government and currently as well it was being used for activities within the country like the Nuwara Eliya tea festival.
Meanwhile the tea global promotion is expected to get underway in September, Tea Board Promotion Director Hasitha De Alwis told the Business Times adding that the delay is due to certain tenders requiring approvals that need a minimum of six weeks in addition to evaluations that need to be carried out.
The board is looking at using the services of bloggers and influencers to send out the message about Ceylon Tea to the different markets.