firms change names amid consumer fair trade concerns
Two regional plantation companies have changed their names in a
move to reposition themselves to better reflect the nature of their
business in the beverage market and consumer concerns about fair
trade and exploitation of labour.
Plantations has followed Bogawantalawa Plantations in dropping the
word plantations from its name to be known as Talawakelle Tea Estates
Ltd., just like Bogawantalawa Tea Estates Ltd.
feel we're not in the plantations business but that we're in the
food and beverage category - tea is a beverage," explained
Jayampathi Molligoda, Director - Strategic Planning and Projects
of Bogawantalawa Tea Estates.
original concept was just plantations management but strategically,
if you go by the business definition, we can't say we're in the
business of plantation management. The business is defined from
the customer point of view."
Lanka should sell Ceylon tea as a value-added beverage to earn more
foreign exchange in order to reduce dependence on bulk sales of
tea as a commodity whose price has risen only marginally in the
last 25 years, he said.
we say that tea auction prices are going up, in terms of US dollars
the price increase is just marginal," Molligoda said. "Furthermore,
wages are also going up." Customers in the US and European
markets view the word plantations as being associated with colonial
exploitation of workers and are now more concerned about workers'
the word has to go out," Molligoda declared. Industry officials
said that the tea plantations had a particularly bad reputation
in the past from the point of view of labour standards given the
regimented nature of work and life on the estates with issues of
time ago, the official handbook published by the Plantations Industries
Ministry even had a separate rate for child workers. The other reason
for RPCs to change their names is that consumers look for some authenticity
when they buy a product - like buyers who like to buy wines from
selected vineyards in France and Australia.
industry is trying to promote Ceylon tea in the same way as branded
products like French wines. "That's where branding of single
estate teas is becoming popularised," explained Molligoda.
"We want to reflect the firm's correct activities from a marketing
point of view and give clients the real tea flavour from our own
Plantations has informed the Colombo Stock Exchange that it has
changed its name "to take away the word plantations as it is
somewhat colonial and exploitative in today's context."
the US and Europe, plantations are associated with labour exploitation,
the company said. It added that in overseas markets for Ceylon teas
the word 'plantations' would not be well accepted, especially in
today's context of fair trading practices being given much recognition.
Board chairman Niraj de Mel said the two RPCs, by changing their
names, appeared to be trying to change consumer perceptions. "They
must be trying to change consumer perceptions, that here is tea
coming virtually straight from a bush, and unblended - to create
an image of freshness."