Sri Lanka Tea Board.
Founded in 1976 as a body to oversee the operations of Tea Research, Tea Promotion, and Tea Regulatory and Development Activities, the Tea Board has changed, both structurally and functionally, during recent years. These changes became necessary when the Sri Lankan government moved from a controlled to a free trade economy, allowing tea to be grown in the private sector.
As part of the government reforms, the ruling body of the Board changed in June 2000 in order to provide a larger representation from the private sector. Members of the Board now include representatives from tea plantations, small holders, traders, brokers and other trade holders.
The Tea Board now wears a few hats: policy formulator, promoter of tea exports, and provider of financial assistance for tea research and small holder development. One of the main thrusts of the activities if the Sri Lanka Tea Board is to assist in the development of the Tea Small Holders Sector. This sector is of crucial importance to the country's economy--more than a million people in the rural areas depend on tea growing and processing for their livelihood. Therefore, maximization of these tea small holders' income is therefore one of the major objectives of the Tea Board.
The Board has been funding those fields and factories processing their green leaf. These efforts have been extremely successful. Today, the Tea Small Holders Sector contributes 60% of the volume of made tea, which serves as 70% of the value of exported tea products. Since tea is Sri Lanka's largest net foreign exchange earner, the tea small holders sector is a major contributor to the country's economy.
The Tea Board also funds tea research. The Tea Research Institute of Sri Lanka was established in 1925 and has earned a significant reputation for its scientific work. Recent projects have been oriented toward the development of technology, which will most likely result in large financial gains for tea producers.
The Tea Board plans to accelerate the shift from exporting tea as a commodity, to marketing it as quality consumer products. The fiscal policies and customs tariffs have now been reformulated to encourage the export growth of such products. Nearly 40% of Sri Lanka's teas are now exported in the form of consumer packs and bags. An additional 55% of the teas are channeled to the export markets in the blended value-added form, some under brand names, in various weights and sizes of packs. Less than 5% of Sri Lanka's teas are now exported in straight-line raw material forms purchased at the tea auctions.
The Sri Lanka Tea Board promotes Ceylon tea as the hallmark of quality. Sri Lanka is one of very few countries in the world that has credible and documented procedures for the enforcement of the minimum International Quality Standard ISO 3720 for all its tea exports. Its teas are closely monitored by the Tea Board to ensure that they comply with regulations.