Business Times

Sri Lanka spearheads initiative to minimise climatic change impact on tea

By Bandula Sirimanna

Sri Lanka is spearheading an initiative to develop long –term technologies to minimize the impact of climatic change on tea plantations in tea producing countries. As a pioneering organic tea producer the country has agreed to furnish information on research carried out by the Tea Research Institute (TRI) to formulate strategies for deriving common benefits to all tea producing nations, according to Gerry Jayawardena, Chairman of the TRI. He noted that decisions taken at the FAO/IGG meeting would be legally binding on member countries.

Mr. Jayawardena told Business Times that due to climate change scenarios in the tea producing countries it is very timely to collate all available research data on climate change. Two new working groups on “Organic Tea” and on “Climate Change” which were identified at the Intersessional Meeting in Kenya will be deliberated at a special session of the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO)/Intergovernmental Group (IGG) on Tea (FAO/IGG, in Colombo. Common tea production standards and the effects of climate change on cultivation will also be discussed at the session, he revealed. "The impact of climate change seems to be drastically altering weather patterns, not only in Sri Lanka, but throughout the world,” he said, adding that climate change brought about by global warming could threaten the famed quality of Sri Lanka's tea, the island's main agriculture export and its best known brand. Prompt action should be taken to minimize the impact on tea, he said.

Sri Lanka’s current status of adhering to ISO 3720 on minimum quality standards, which enabled Sri Lanka to emerge at the forum as the only tea producer with the highest degree of standard compliance can be further strengthened through an action plan under the Working Group on “Tea Trade and Quality”, Deputy Director (Promotion), Sri Lanka Tea Board Upali Kahandawa said. Sri Lanka is contemplating forming a tea producer forum, in order to create a platform for exchange of views for the advantage of tea producers and to formulate strategies for deriving common benefits to all tea producing nations, he disclosed.

The FAO/IGG Session on tea will be held in Colombo from 30th January to 1st February 2012. Selecting Sri Lanka as the venue for one of the most important events in the global tea industry, providing a prestigious platform for the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization’s 20th Session of the Inter-Governmental Group (IGG) on Tea is certainly an achievement and shows the world recognition for Sri Lanka, said H D Hemaratne, Director General of the Sri Lanka Tea Board which will host the meeting. The IGG meeting will discuss ways of harmonising the different maximum residue limits (MRLs) in tea imposed by different countries and they will agree on a common standard for pesticide residue levels in tea.

The Colombo Tea Traders Association in collaboration with the Sri Lanka Tea Board will also conduct ‘ExclusiviTEA – An international tea convention to mark the 145th anniversary of the tea industry in Sri Lanka from 29th January - 3rd February, 2012. 200 foreign and 2-300 local delegates are expected to participate in both events. Chairman, Tea Convention Organizing Committee Michael de Zoysa noted that the industry stake-holders are keen to celebrate the first ever Tea Convention in Sri Lanka after decades of internal conflict. Strong tea contingents from tea producing as well as consuming countries are expected to attend this event.

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