Tea production in Sri Lanka

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Tea plantation (Dambatenne estates) at about 1800 m above sea level in Haputale, Hill Country

Sri Lanka (formerly called Ceylon) has a climate and varied elevation that allows for the production of both Camellia sinensis var. assamica and Camellia sinensis var. sinensis, with the assamica varietal holding the majority of production. Tea production is one of the main sources of foreign exchange for Sri Lanka, and accounts for 2% of GDP, contributing over US$1.5 billion in 2013 to the economy of Sri Lanka.[1] It employs, directly or indirectly, over 1 million people, and in 1995 directly employed 215,338 on tea plantations and estates. In addition, tea planting by smallholders is the source of employment for thousands whilst it is also the main form of livelihoods for tens of thousands of families. Sri Lanka is the world's fourth-largest producer of tea. In 1995, it was the world's leading exporter of tea (rather than producer), with 23% of the total world export, but it has since been surpassed by Kenya. The highest production of 340 million kg was recorded in 2013, while the production in 2014 was slightly reduced to 338 million kg.[2]

The humidity, cool temperatures, and rainfall of the country's central highlands provide a climate that favors the production of high-quality tea. On the other hand, tea produced in low-elevation areas such as Matara, Galle and Ratanapura districts with high rainfall and warm temperature has high level of astringent properties. The tea biomass production itself is higher in low-elevation areas. Such tea is popular in the Middle East. The industry was introduced to the country in 1867 by James Taylor, a British planter who arrived in 1852.[3][4][5][6][7][8][9] Tea planting under smallholder conditions has become popular in the 1970s.

History[edit]

Old Ceylon tea tin

The total population of Sri Lanka according to the census of 1871 was 2,584,780. The 1871 demographic distribution and population in the plantation areas is given below:[10]

Kandy District, the heartland of tea production in Sri Lanka
1871 demographic distribution
District Total
population
No. of
estates
Estate
population
% of population
on estates
Kandy District 258,432 625 81,476 31.53
Badulla District 129,000 130 15,555 12.06
Matale District 71,724 111 13,052 18.2
Kegalle District 105,287 40 3,790 3.6
Sabaragamuwa 92,277 37 3,227 3.5
Nuwara Eliya District 36,184 21 308 0.85
Kurunegala District 207,885 21 2,393 1.15
Matara District 143,379 11 1,072 0.75
Total 1,044,168 996 123,654 11.84

Growth and history of commercial production[edit]

Henry Randolph Trafford, one of the pioneers of tea cultivation in Ceylon in the 1880s

Registered tea production by elevation[edit]

Registered tea production in hectares and total square miles by elevation category in Sri Lanka, 1959–2000:[10]

Year High
altitude
hectares
Medium
altitude
hectares
Low
altitude
hectares
Total
hectares
Total
square
miles
1959 74,581 66,711 46,101 187,393 723.5
1960 79,586 69,482 48,113 197,181 761.3
1961 76,557 97,521 63,644 237,722 917.8
1962 76,707 97,857 64,661 239,225 923.7
1963 76,157 95,691 65,862 237,710 917.8
1964 81,538 92,281 65,759 239,578 925.0
1965 87,345 92,806 60,365 240,516 928.6
1966 87,514 93,305 60,563 241,382 932.0
1967 87,520 93,872 60,945 242,337 935.7
1968 81,144 99,359 61,292 241,795 933.6
1969 81,092 98,675 61,616 241,383 932.0
1970 77,549 98,624 65,625 241,798 933.6
1971 77,936 98,624 65,625 242,185 935.1
Year High
altitude
hectares
Medium
altitude
hectares
Low
altitude
hectares
Total
hectares
Total
square
miles
1972 77,639 98,252 65,968 241,859 933.8
1973 77,793 98,165 66,343 242,301 935.5
1974 77,693 97,875 66,622 242,190 935.1
1975 79,337 98,446 64,099 241,882 933.9
1976 79,877 94,338 66,363 240,578 928.9
1977 79,653 94,835 67,523 242,011 934.4
1978 79,628 95,591 68,023 243,242 939.2
1979 78,614 97,084 68,401 244,099 942.5
1980 78,786 96,950 68,969 244,705 944.8
1981 78,621 96,853 69,444 244,918 945.6
1982 77,769 96,644 67,728 242,141 934.9
1983 71,959 90,272 67,834 230,065 888.3
1984 74,157 90,203 63,514 227,874 879.8
Year High
altitude
hectares
Medium
altitude
hectares
Low
altitude
hectares
Total
hectares
Total
square
miles
1985 74,706 89,175 67,769 231,650 894.4
1986 73,206 85,216 64,483 222,905 860.6
1987 72,773 84,445 64,280 221,498 855.2
1988 72,901 84,227 64,555 221,683 855.9
1989 73,110 84,062 64,938 222,110 857.6
1990 73,138 83,223 65,397 221,758 856.2
1991 73,331 82,467 65,893 221,691 856.0
1992 74,141 85,510 62,185 221,836 856.5
1994 51,443 56,155 79,711 187,309 723.2
1995 51,443 56,155 79,711 187,309 723.2
1996 52,272 56,863 79,836 188,971 729.6
1997 51,444 58,155 79,711 189,310 730.9
1998 51,444 58,155 79,711 189,310 730.9
2000 52,272 56,863 79,836 188,971 729.6

Main destination of Sri Lankan teas[edit]

The most important foreign markets for Sri Lankan tea are the former Soviet bloc countries of the CIS, the United Arab Emirates, Russia, Syria, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, the UK, Egypt, Libya and Japan.[11]

The most important foreign markets for Sri Lankan tea are as follows, in terms of millions of kilograms and millions of pounds imported. The figures were recorded in 2000:[10]

Sacks of tea ready to be shipped
Total Exports

Country
Million
kilograms
Million
pounds
Percent
of total
CIS Countries 57.6 127.0 20
UAE 48.1 106.0 16.7
Russia 46.1 101.6 16.01
Syria 21.5 47.4 7.47
Turkey 20.3 44.8 7.05
Iran 12.5 27.6 4.34
Saudi Arabia 11.4 25.1 3.96
Iraq 11.1 24.5 3.85
UK 10.2 22.5 3.54
Egypt 10.1 22.3 3.51
Libya 10.0 22.0 3.47
Japan 8.3 18.3 2.88
Germany 5.0 11.0 1.74
Others 23.7 52.2 8.23
Total 288 634.9 100

Branding[edit]

The Lion Logo of Ceylon tea

The Sri Lanka Tea Board is the legal proprietor of the lion logo of Ceylon tea. The logo has been registered as a trademark in many countries. In order to appear the Lion logo on a tea pack, it must meet four criteria.

  1. The Lion Logo can only be used on consumer packs of Ceylon tea.
  2. The packs must contain 100 percent of pure Ceylon tea.
  3. The packaging should be done only in Sri Lanka.
  4. The brands which employ the Lion logo should meet the quality standards set by the Sri Lanka Tea Board.[12]

The logo is considered to be a "known sign of a high quality" around the world.[13] The Sri Lanka Tea board signed an agreement to sponsor Sri Lanka national cricket team and Sri Lanka women's national cricket team in their overseas tours for US$ 4 million for three years.[14]

Research[edit]

The Tea Research Institute[edit]

The Tea Research Ordinance was enacted by Parliament in 1925 and the Tea Research Institute (TRI) was founded. It is at present the only national body in the country that generates and disseminates new research and technology related to the processing and cultivation of tea.[15]

Beginning in the early 1970s, two researchers from the National Institute of Dental Research in Bethesda, Maryland, USA conducted a series of research projects in which they arranged a longitudinal study group of a large number of Tamil tea labourers who worked at the Dunsinane and Harrow Tea Estates, 80 kilometres (50 mi) from Kandy. This landmark study was possible because the population of tea labourers were known to have never employed any conventional oral hygiene measures, thereby providing some insight into the natural history of periodontal disease in man.[16]

Sustainability standards and certifications[edit]

There are a number of organisations, both international and local, that promote and enforce sustainability standards and certifications pertaining to tea in Sri Lanka.

Among the international organisations that operate within Sri Lanka are Rainforest Alliance, Fairtrade, UTZ Certified and Ethical Tea Partnership. The Small Organic Farmers’ Association (SOFA) is a local organisation dedicated to organic farming.

Gallery[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Sri Lanka Export Development Board, 2014, Industry Capability Report: Tea Sector, http://www.srilankabusiness.com/pdf/industrycapabilityreport_tea_sector.pdf Archived 2015-09-24 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Central Bank of Sri Lanka, 2014, Annual Report, http://www.cbsl.gov.lk/pics_n_docs/10_pub/_docs/efr/annual_report/AR2014/English/content.htm Archived 2015-08-03 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "TED Case Studies – Ceylon Tea". American University, Washington, DC. Archived from the original on 23 February 2015. Retrieved 27 November 2013.
  4. ^ "Sri Lanka tops tea sales". BBC. 1 February 2002. Archived from the original on 3 May 2008. Retrieved 28 April 2008.
  5. ^ "Sri Lanka Tea Tour". The Tea Association of the USA. 11–17 August 2003. Archived from the original on 17 April 2011. Retrieved 5 April 2008.
  6. ^ "Role of Tea in Development in Sri Lanka". United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. Archived from the original on 6 October 2008.
  7. ^ "South Asia Help for Sri Lanka's tea industry". BBC News. 4 April 1999. Archived from the original on 30 June 2009. Retrieved 5 April 2008.
  8. ^ "Sri Lanka moves to protect tea industry". BBC News. 19 February 2003. Archived from the original on 7 April 2008. Retrieved 5 April 2008.
  9. ^ "Just 64p a day for tea pickers in Sri Lanka". BBC News. 20 September 2005. Archived from the original on 30 June 2009. Retrieved 5 April 2008.
  10. ^ a b c Holsinger, Monte (2002). "Thesis on the History of Ceylon Tea". History of Ceylon Tea. Archived from the original on 19 June 2009. Retrieved 25 April 2009.
  11. ^ "Sri Lanka tops tea sales". BBC. 1 February 2002. Archived from the original on 2 May 2004. Retrieved 25 April 2009.
  12. ^ "Tea from Sri Lanka" (PDF). Sri Lanka Export Development Board. Retrieved 27 March 2021.
  13. ^ Johnsson, S. (23 May 2016). "The green gold from Sri Lanka" (PDF). Linnaeus University. p. 43. Retrieved 27 March 2021.
  14. ^ "Ceylon Tea - The Official Overseas Sponsor of Sri Lanka Cricket". srilankateaboard.lk. Sri Lanka Tea Board. 7 January 2015. Retrieved 27 March 2021.
  15. ^ Who we are Archived 2017-04-27 at the Wayback Machine, Tea Research Institute - Sri Lanka, Retrieved April 2017
  16. ^ Löe, H, et al. Natural history of periodontal disease in humans. J Clin Perio 1986;13:431–440.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]