By Shabiya Ali Ahlam
The Sri Lanka Tea Board (SLTB) yesterday strongly rejected the claims on increasing amounts of substandard tea leaves entering the manufacturing process and affirmed the quality of Ceylon tea is at high levels and is improving.
Pointing out that all corrective measures have been taken to ensure Ceylon tea delivers its promise of being the world’s finest, SLTB Tea Commissioner E.A.J.K. Edirisinghe dismissed the claims that Ceylon tea had seen a significant decline in quality amid poor manufacturing practices. “Our leaves are good compared to the rest of the world. If the tea we produce is below standard it simply wouldn’t sell. And that is certainly not the case,” the Commissioner charged.
“Of our total production, 98 percent is of the finest quality. We monitor all processes 100 percent. We look into all the nitty-gritty to ensure that the quality is maintained.
It is wrong to say the quality of Ceylon tea is dropping,” Edirisinghe added.
He stressed that the B-Leaf 60 programme that was introduced in 2014 had increased the immature and undamaged leaves (two leaves and a bud) entering into production from 33 percent to 54 percent, while drastically reducing the coarse leaves used.
It was highlighted that those factories that did not adhere to the quality requirements set by the STLB had been penalized.
“We check the leaf at the point of it reaching the factory before it goes into production. If the net sale average (NSA) of any factory falls 20 percent below the industry levels, their registration will be suspended,” noted Edirisinghe.
While a good proportion of factories have been issued with warnings for diverting their focus from quality to quantity, around four entities have had their registrations suspended last year.
Of the many measures taken to preserve quality, the SLTB has extended transport and harvest subsidies to producers. The government has also rolled out a Rs.100 million programme to improve leaf harvesting and agricultural practices.
With the SLTB having emphasized on leaf quality in the past three years, this year it plans on diverting its attention towards good manufacturing practices (GMP), where the objective is on improving cleanliness and making tea contamination free.
Starting from February, the STLB would facilitate seven workshops on the same across the country.
“Following the workshops we will be carrying out GMP evaluations. If factories fall into the ‘poor’ category, firm action will be taken,” Edirisinghe said.
Such factories would be given two months to upgrade their facilities, failing which their registrations would be cancelled, he added.
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