Govt scraps tea blending plans

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By 2017-09-26

By Nishel Fernando

Minister of Plantation Industries, Naveen DIssanayake recently announced the Government would not allow Ceylon tea blending due to opposition from the majority stakeholders, since opportunities lie in innovation and red tape being scrapped.
Addressing the 27th AGM of the Sri Lanka Tea Factory Owners Association (SLTFOA) last week, DIssanayake said "Many of those in the tea industry oppose tea blending. I as a Minister who wants change, cut through red tape to move forward and boost innovation. I would be happy if this idea can be entertained and being a Minister I have to accept reality as the majority don't accept liberalizing tea blending".

"When I ask proposers and supporters if the tea blending policy would bring tea prices down, they didn't give a definite answer. Can you imagine the social chaos, if tea prices drop?" he queried. "As the Minister in charge of tea, I cannot risk it. Sometimes it's better to go ahead with the status quo. But we also must change", he added.

The minister announced that the Government had introduced a new wage model with an outgrow element for workers in Region Plantation Companies (RPC). He said "The new model would allow workers to get a higher wage according to the way they pluck. Later, we want to consolidate the process in the next round of wage negotiations. Hence, there will be harmony between workers and employers. The model would give more dignity to workers and they will also have some rights over the land they pluck."
Dissanayake also stressed a need for a new financial model for the tea industry.

He said, "We can easily sell 300 million kg of tea; however, the issue really is quality, unsustainability and profitability of all stakeholders of this financial model. Replanting tea is the way forward. However, it's not happening at the moment. We have to replant and nourish the soil, since nourishment has dropped over a 40-year period. That's why we need a financial model for tea."
DIssanayake is to meet Minister of Finance, Mangala Samaraweera along with stakeholders of the tea industry to discuss current issues in the tea industry and to discuss possible budgetary allowances for the tea industry during the next Budget.

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