PLANTATION MANAGEMENT NEEDS TO BE DYNAMIC AND INNOVATIVE

21 October 2014 05:57 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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It is believed in business circles that the plantation industry is no longer a dominant force in Sri Lanka’s economy. The primary issue is therefore, how to prepare managers and professionals for full participation in a rapidly changing business environment requiring innovative strategies for new opportunities and fresh challenges?

 


Tea industry
Although Sri Lanka’s Tea production in 2013 had been 340,229,030 MT, yet  Sri Lanka will continue to be in rank 04 in global scenario ( table 1). While still considered a producer of superior-quality tea, it is evident that Sri Lanka’s competitive position in the global tea arena has been slipping. Heightened competitive pressures in the global market, coupled with several internal supply issues, have eroded the country’s competitiveness. For instance, Sri Lanka’s cost of production remains among the highest in the world, a result of lower labour productivity and relatively inferior yields.


Inadequate focus on replanting and fertilising due to financial constraints has dampened yields in comparison to its global peers. Meanwhile, continued focus on orthodox and bulk tea could further affect the country’s competitive position as global consumption patterns increasingly tilt towards more convenient forms of this beverage.


To ensure the continuity of Sri Lanka as a dominant force in the global tea market, it is crucial that productivity-enhancing measures, innovative processing and value-addition technologies, exploring new markets etc are implemented .


On a related note, most plantation companies generally face financial constraints due to the reluctance of banks to provide loans to this relatively volatile sector. Given the current buoyancy of the equity market, however, it is opportune for such companies to start tapping the stock market.


On a more macro level, it is evident that a cohesive policy to promote the production of value-added forms of tea is essential - to arrest the trend of declining competitiveness. In this regard, Sri Lanka could consider the partial liberalisation of tea imports to enable multi-origin blending while balancing the impact such a move would have on the domestic industry.

 


Tea marketing
At present the world tea market is rapidly growing with emerging customer needs. The importance of a change from bulk tea exports to value added tea products to face the challenges in an increasingly competitive beverage market, is known. Therefore, companies failing to address the competitive forces by developing innovative marketing strategies will lose out to competitors.


 It is also accepted that brand building, niche marketing, product differentiation, cost leadership, and customer focus are few of the most prominent strategies that should be adopted by the companies. Opening up new markets abroad, fair trade, environmental sustainability, and faster delivery are also important.
A selection of the top 10 Tea in the world in January, 2014


It been recently reported that a Sri Lankan tea was only one among the top 10 teas in a ranking by an International Tea marketing organization, in January, 2014. The top 10 grades are given below:


1.  Adagio Golden Yunnan
This complex, golden-tipped tea boasts a rich, warm aroma and a nice smoky flavor. The bold, black brew hails from the Yunnan province of China.
2.  Elemental Tea Kenya Black Dryer Mouth
This organic offering is robustly flavored and full-bodied but very low in caffeine. They also like its almost bitter aftertaste and hint of spice. It’s particularly high in antioxidants, because it was not sorted (graded) after it came out of the mouth of the dryer (hence its name: Dryer Mouth).
3. Golden Moon Rasa Sinharaja Black Tea
Dubbed the “scholar’s cup,” the full-bodied, molasses-like Golden Moon tea is grown in the Sri Lankan rainforests. It is rich and strong with nice floral notes.
4.  Kusmi Tea’s Anastasia Black Tea
Kusmi Tea dates back to 1867 in St. Petersburg, where it was sipped by Russian czars. It’s surprisingly light, offering a smoother take on classic Earl Grey, with notes of bergamot, lemon and orange blossom.
5. Novus Tea Sapphire Earl Grey
In addition to bergamot, this black tea melange also features whole blue malva flowers, which add a nice pop of color and light floral note to the brew. We love it paired with dessert.
6.  PeLi Teas Lapsang Souchong
Lapsang Souchong is one of the oldest black teas. After being picked, the leaves are rolled and smoked, the latter imparting a strong — almost meaty — jolt of smoky flavor. The profile of this smooth but full-bodied brew is certainly unique. Give your taste buds a kick!
7. PG Tips
We keep coming back to this beloved British import (which has been around since 1869) whenever we want a good cup of black tea without spending a fortune. As its name implies, only the tips are used in their blend. PG Tips is sustainable and, as of 2012, certified by the Rainforest Alliance.
8. SerendipiTea Guranse Estate Organic Black Tea
Spicy, with the slightest hint of sweetness, SerendipiTea’s second flush Guranse Estate offering hails from the oldest organic tea garden in the foothills of the Mahabarat Mountains in Nepal. It is fair trade-certified.
9.  Teas Etc Golden Monkey Organic Tea
This light, delicate black tea from China’s Yunnan province features golden twisted leaves that unveil green and grassy notes on the palate. It’s surprisingly strong but without bitterness.
10. TeaVivre Yun Nan Dian Hong Black Tea
TeaVivre is group of international tea lovers who live in China. Yun Nan Dian Hong comes from China’s Yunnan province, which lies in the southern part of the country, bordering Burma. It is golden in color and light in taste, and offers a delicious, rounded flavor.

 


Innovation

Another area of importance is innovativeness. Innovation is a new idea, device or process. Innovation can be viewed as the application of better solutions that meet new requirements, in-articulated needs, or existing market needs This is accomplished through more effective products, processes, services, technologies, or ideas that are readily available to markets, governments and society. The term innovation can be defined as something original and, as a consequence, new, that “breaks into” the market or society.


Innovation differs from invention in that innovation refers to the use of a better and, as a result, novel idea or method, whereas invention refers more directly to the creation of the idea or method itself. Innovation differs from improvement in that innovation refers to the notion of doing something different rather than doing the same thing better.

 


 Mobile tea bar – an innovation
Patrons at the Byram Shop Rite got a surprise recently, when they pulled in to see a customized 1977 Air Stream travel trailer parked in the center of the plaza. The silver trailer has been retrofitted to welcome the pubic into the world of Bigelow Tea as the company celebrates its 70th anniversary.
The Mobile Tea Bar began its 2014 cross-country tour with stops in Boston, New York and more recently, in Byram.


“We’re hitting various events including marathons and festivals,” said Timothy Richmond, Marketing Project Manager for Bigelow. “We’re also visiting grocery conglomerates such as Renetco Shop Rite because we greatly value our relationship with them.”
The relationship between Renetco was underscored by the posing of the two entities mascots: Bigelow’s large cup of tea mascot named Biggie, and Shop Rite’s bear mascot named Scrunchie. The two posed together with visitors for photo ops. At the retro Tea Bar, customers were able to order complimentary tea from a large, canopied window, or venture inside where there are several stools and a back section which paints Bigelow’s history.


“The Tea Bar tour exemplifies Bigelow’s entrepreneurial spirit that has made the tea the number one leader in specialty tea,” it has been said, “The cross-country tour aims to meet and inspire tea drinkers across the country with Bigelow’s story and a chance for them to sample the plethora of flavors the company has to offer”.


“We’re very excited for this opportunity to offer consumers fresh-brewed samples of some of our most popular teas such as “Constant Comment”, in a fun, new way”, said Cindi Bigelow, third generation president and CEO. “We are also looking forward to introducing new flavors and sharing the unique Bigelow family story and our passion for tea with tea lovers across the U.S.”.


The Bigelow Mobile Tea Bar will open doors at street fairs and festivals in major market cities across the country. After several stops in New York last weekend, the tour will continue to Minneapolis, Chicago, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Austin, Houston, Atlanta and Tampa.
“It’s an awesome way to meet our customers and introduce flavors to them”, Tour Manager Chris Cassinelli said. “Ninety percent of the public know our name and about 10 percent have our tea in their cupboard but didn’t realize it”.


Richmond has added that, “The history of how Bigelow has progressed is fascinating.”
He cited a tea tin dating back to the 40s.
“David Bigelow found it to be not too exciting in black and white so he hand painted each and every tin adding color,” Richmond has said.
That’s one example of the passion the family has always had for the business which was started in the kitchen when Ruth Campbell Bigelow created her first cup of tea. The business has spanned three generations with Cindi Bigelow now serving as president and CEO. Prior to this, she spent 20 years in practically all areas of the company that her grandmother founded.
Along with its public appearances, the Bigelow Mobile Tea Bar will make appearances at retailers along the way.

 


Management
We know that management is like an indicator that exits between work and results. Without a proper indicator one would have been in disarray. Due to fast technological changes and innovations, high competitions, spread of education and knowledge, change in the nature and attitude of customers etc, managing an organization increasingly complex and challenging today and hence calls for professional skills of high caliber.


It depends a great deal on how well a professional manager intelligently act on a particular situation, develop his ideas, thoughts imaginations, creativity, maintain discipline in every respect, communicate effectively, hold back his personal ego for the larger interest of his/her fellow colleagues and his organization. In short he/she is to make proper planning well in advance, organizing his task systematically with minimum cost, time and effort, directing all individuals to make proper execution of the tasks, co-ordinating all facilities and finally controlling all activities in conformance to the plans of the organization.

 


Conclusion
Professionalism and innovativeness are the immediate need of the plantation industry for it to prosper. Governmental support is also vital. But, Worker wages should not be considered as an issue, when ever plantation profitability is discussed. To be fair by all the workers, a performance based wages system for tea pluckers should be successfully implemented as part of a wider package involving a parallel development of the field to generate a bigger crop for the system.


(The writer can be contacted at treecrops@gmail.com)

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