Tea production in Sri Lanka
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. 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.
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. Tea planting under smallholder conditions has become popular in the 1970s.
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:
|% of population |
|Nuwara Eliya District||36,184||21||308||0.85|
Growth and history of commercial production
Registered tea production by elevation
Registered tea production in hectares and total square miles by elevation category in Sri Lanka, 1959–2000:
Main destination of Sri Lankan teas
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.
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:
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.
- The Lion Logo can only be used on consumer packs of Ceylon tea.
- The packs must contain 100 percent of pure Ceylon tea.
- The packaging should be done only in Sri Lanka.
- The brands which employ the Lion logo should meet the quality standards set by the Sri Lanka Tea Board.
The logo is considered to be a "known sign of a high quality" around the world. 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.
The Tea Research Institute
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.
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.
Sustainability standards and certifications
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.
- Akbar Tea
- George Steuart Group (Steuarts Tea, 1835 Steuarts Ceylon)
- Island Tea
- Thomas Lipton
- 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
- 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
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- "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.
- 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.
- "Sri Lanka tops tea sales". BBC. 1 February 2002. Archived from the original on 2 May 2004. Retrieved 25 April 2009.
- "Tea from Sri Lanka" (PDF). Sri Lanka Export Development Board. Retrieved 27 March 2021.
- Johnsson, S. (23 May 2016). "The green gold from Sri Lanka" (PDF). Linnaeus University. p. 43. Retrieved 27 March 2021.
- "Ceylon Tea - The Official Overseas Sponsor of Sri Lanka Cricket". srilankateaboard.lk. Sri Lanka Tea Board. 7 January 2015. Retrieved 27 March 2021.
- Who we are Archived 2017-04-27 at the Wayback Machine, Tea Research Institute - Sri Lanka, Retrieved April 2017
- Löe, H, et al. Natural history of periodontal disease in humans. J Clin Perio 1986;13:431–440.
- George Thornton Pett (1899). The Ceylon Tea-Makers' Handbook. The Times of Ceylon Steam Press, Colombo.
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