The annual awards night of Finlays Tea Estates was held recently at Jie Jie Beach Resort, Panadura. Finlays’ two plantation companies – Hapugastenne and Udapussellawa – were celebrating their 25th year since the incorporation in the year 1992.
The momentous occasion this year coincided with the 150th year of the tea industry of Sri Lanka and it was a fitting occasion to celebrate this event, which was held with much fanfare and glory to recognize the contributions made by the estate managers and their assistants and the staff of the head office during the years 2015 and 2016, which were both challenging years for the industry.
As always, the occasion was graced by Finlays Tea Estates Chairman Naresh Ratwatte and his spouse Surangani, Director Chief Executive Officer Dushan Ratwatte and his spouse Anu and other senior and junior managers and their spouses. In all, there was a gathering of approximately 120 in attendance.
Finlays Estates comprises of two companies, namely Hapugastenne and Udapussellawa Plantations PLC. There are 30 tea and tea cum rubber estates within the company comprising of 6000 ha of tea, 1800 ha of rubber, 2500 ha of timber plantations and 500 ha of ancillary crops.
Twenty two tea factories are in operation producing orthodox, CTC, green tea and oolong tea.
These two companies employ a large workforce of over 15000 today, which has dwindled over the years due to outer migration.
The chairman in his address, welcoming all the guests for the gathering, congratulated everyone who had made valuable contributions to the company irrespective of whether they receive awards or not. Relating to the tea industry, which was celebrating its 150th year this year, has had its ups and downs but has been resilient and survived the dark ages of the industry where some pundits had written off. He also stressed on the importance of the planter, who is the man on the spot, as it is he who drives the plantation and generates revenue to sustain the business. He did congratulate all who were present and the others who have since retired for their contribution to the company and the industry as a whole to have achieved these milestones.
It was also mentioned that this year due to the boom in tea prices and the improvement in the rubber prices, the plantations have a good run despite the shortfall in production but cautioned all that they should not be too complacent and not lose sight of the importance of maintaining efficiencies in all areas of costs and out goings on the estates and processing plants.
He said that most seniors in the audience will agree that the industry has had many instances going back in history, where dramatic changes in prices of tea and rubber, which have affected the industry and therefore advised the estate managers to continue their good work in continuous improvements in productivity to sustain this industry another 150 years in Sri Lanka.
He also stressed the importance of being loyal and committed to the company as the company has looked after them all these years, in good times and bad. A focal point in the chairman’s address was to work as a team and not be distracted by external forces. CEO Dushanth Ratwatte congratulated all the winners and gave a motivational speech to encourage the younger generation to take more responsibilities in the future and also stressed the importance of team work in especially challenging times.
Awards were presented to the best estate that had continuous improvements in areas of production productivity, health and safety, risk management, prices for their respective products and maintenance of estate assets including their respective bungalows and gardens.
Courtlodge Estate Senior Manager Lasantha Samarakoon carried away the award for the Best Strategic Business Unit for 2015 whilst Galaboda Estate was the overall winner of the Best Strategic Business Unit for 2016; Manager Dharshana Diyagamawas was the proud winner of this award.