Lanka’s tea industry reaches boiling point
Tea traders are up in arms against what they call a bad decision on the part of the President that has led to a drop in exports and a total ban on Ceylon Tea to Japan since last year.
Ceylon Tea Traders Association (CTTA) President Anslem Perera addressing the Ceylon Planters’ Society as Chief Guest at its 82nd AGM held on Wednesday at the Hotel Galadari said that the one bad decision of the President had caused huge costs to the industry and a drop in exports and yields this year.
“Personally, as an exporter I have suffered as Japan is a big market,” he said. He explained that since Ceylon Tea was banned from October 2017 to October 2018 there has been a serious issue since his company that sells Mlesna Tea has had to spend nearly Rs.2 million monthly on laboratory tests to ensure the tea is safe for consumption in Japan prior to entry there.
Mr. Perera noted that though glyphosate had just arrived in the country it was yet to reach the estates and pointed out that the absence of its use on the plantations would mean that it would take up to six months to return to normalcy after its application.
In fact he asserted that once trust in trade is broken it is hard for anyone to understand how difficult it would be to regain it.
Addressing the planters, he said that though the industry had matured the planters were not getting what they need.
Mr. Perera pointed out that the plucking of two leaves and bud has been replaced by a whole branch and a bud and recalled how tea factories in their heyday would give out the aroma of tea that is hardly existent today.
“After nationalization we have ruined the industry,” Mr. Perera asserted and insisted that planters of today should attempt to turn the industry to what it was some time ago.
Commenting on the state of the labour on the estates, he pointed out that the government continues to interfere and that, “we should not let the unions run this place” adding that there were no unions operating on estates in Sabaragamuwa and Ruhuna.
On the other hand, he called on the employers to look after their workers stating that they should not just be blinded by the profits. “You don’t need unions if you look after workers,” he said adding that discipline was an essential aspect of running the plantations as well.
CPS Chairman Rushantha Perera addressing the planters said they would fully support them in their resistance against unruly trade unions.
The erratic weather conditions due to global warming had aggravated the crisis on the plantations, he noted adding that low labour turnout was another issue.
Mr. Perera observed that the use of technology on the plantations was essential with drones and other equipment for which subsidies should be provided.
Moreover, he cautioned that there should not be a repeat of the glyphosate episode that caused about a 30 per cent drop in yields on the plantations in addition to losing some key markets.
He commended Plantation Minister Navin Dissanayake for the re-introduction of glyphosate on the plantations and insisted that hereafter there should be scientific evidence provided prior to the banning of such weedicides.
In addition, Mr. Perera said that the government is currently on a drive to close down nearly 38 estates with about 30,000 hectares allocated for the tourism industry.
Further fragmentation of the estates would mean that workers living on the plantations would lose their livelihoods but save their homes.
The Chairman also noted that they need to ensure that government instability should end and harassment of public officials should not go on stating that the “mad hatters’ party must end.”
Plantation Human Development Trust Director General Lal Perera, Guest of Honour at the AGM also made the fervent appeal to the planters to rebuild the industry and pointed out that through the outgrower system they should produce more leaders to take over the plantations.
He called on the planters to regain the trust of the workers in order to ensure that they would not be moved by trade unions.
Hayleys Plantations MD and the AGM Chairman Protem Roshan Rajadurai related the arrival of the Indian labour force on the Sri Lankan estates and explained the importance of the planters on the estates and their role in providing the necessary leadership at all times.
He called for a change in the wage system insisting that the 150 year-old model needs to convert to a motivational system to ensure workers were able to earn based on the productivity levels.
Through this revenue-sharing structure workers would be encouraged to work hard and be motivated to earn more, he said.
“Time has come particularly for planters to take charge against intrusive politics,” he said adding that they were not willing to engage with trade unions that use their political muscle nor would they bow down to such pressure. He explained that this was the reason they had called on the Employers Federation of Ceylon (EFC) to carry out wage negotiations on behalf of the RPCs.
Source - http://www.sundaytimes.lk/181223/business-times/lankas-tea-industry-reaches-boiling-point-325754.html?fbclid=IwAR0H2IwoJWXKxs-fQagpLrrc8rJqVWcQo-ATvnzJnfPn-IiQFrS2TMjbvfI