Camellia, Khapra & Asbestos : Tea as an Aphrodisiac ?
Not often is that the men have the heart, when their one great industry is ruined, to rear up in few years another as rich to take its’ place; and the tea fields of Ceylon are as true monument to courage as is the lion of Waterloo’ – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Is it the Khapra Beetle or Tit-for-Tat by Putin’s men against Sri Lanka’s ban on Asbestos? Out of total production of Sri Lanka tea [Camellia Sinensis] more than 60 per cent is directly purchased by West Asia and Russia. The largest importer is Russia which accounts for 15 per cent of the total production and is followed by UAE, Iran, Syria, Turkey, Libya, Iraq, Azerbaijan and Japan.
In 2014 January, for the first time in Sri Lankan history tea prices have came down by Rs. 174 or US$ 1.27 per kg. Tea auction fetched the highest prices in the world; also the highest cost of production and lowest productivity is also witnessed in Sri Lanka. The crisis period during 2008 there was a drastic impact on the tea smallholders with bought leaf price falling below the cost of cost of production which was Rs. 40/-, an absolute crisis situation was experienced.
Sadly, nationalisation in the 1970s and the crisis the industry faces, have made preservation of its history almost impossible. Sri Lanka’s share of world production and share of world export are also gradually decreasing. These are the signs of losing competitiveness in the global tea market.
In the 1970s, African countries entered the tea industry in a large scale. During 1970s, the Sri Lankan Government nationalised many of its plantations. As a result, the British investors who ran many of the Sri Lankan plantations went to Kenya to invest in the tea plantation sector in African soil. The Kenyan Government provided them with the necessary support. The tea produced by the Kenyan estate sector is marketed by the multinational companies. Thus, Kenya has relatively strong international marketing mechanism. This enabled Kenya to be a major player in the global tea market. Kenya is now enjoying a significant portion of the global tea production and global tea exports. Kenya gained market share at the expense of the major players, such as Sri Lanka and India.
An industry, without a long-term vision was going through a crisis moving downward for decades now, as a consequence of Going for short-term political expedience instead of probing for enduring solutions. Importation of tea from abroad for blending purposes tarnished the reputation the country earned for centuries as the undisputed quality tea producer.
- Khapra beetle considered native to India and one of the most destructive invasive insect species in the world
- The plantation sector covered around 760,000 hectares in 2002
- The largest importer is Russia which accounts for 15 % of the total production
Khapra Beetle and Sri Lankan Tea
Sri Lankan tea accounts for about 20% of the Russian tea market. Russia restricted the importation of agricultural products when a Tea consignments from Sri Lanka to Russia found to contain a Khapra beetle a few days ago. Sri Lanka consequently lost a substantial amount of foreign exchange this year. A situation that has affected not only the country’s economy but also its image as a tea exporter.
Khapra beetle considered native to India and one of the most destructive invasive insect species in the world; they say it prefers grain and cereal products but contaminations are also reported in dried plant/animal matter, vegetable seeds and pulses. The pest according to specialists could thrive on the packing materials used as the larvae are known to live effectively until it finds a suitable host. It is very hard and expensive to destroy this pest. Therefore the argument that the insect was found on the outside of the packging material and the tea was not contaminated does not hold any worthwhile purpose.
Who’s destroying Ceylon Tea? ‘Vasa Visa Nethi Ratak’
Glyphosate, the killer of weeds was banned following a “A country devoid of poisonous food” campaign led by Ven Athuraliye Ratana MP, without finding an alternative herbicide. Regional plantation companies and Small holders are searching for a substitute to glyphosate, which is being extensively used all around the world in most developed nations.Low country tea small-holders who produce 70 percent of the total output faces enormous difficulties due to the suppression of the growth of the bushes as a result of Weeds. It turns the foliage brownish and stimulates defoliation, manual uprooting is the only alternative to use of herbicides, which is a tedious and costly task.
Commercial plantations are very much ineffective in weed control. A Cabinet sub-committee appointed to study and report on the matter had noted that the ban led to unavailability of successful herbicides leading to experimenting with unauthorized herbicides or manual weeding that added to the cost along with reduced use of fertilizer that depressed the tea production further. Tea production in 2016 dropped by about 15 percent due to the above factors and the drought. At the last AGM of the Colombo Tea Traders Association, they brought out the issue stressing how just one individual was holding an entire industry and the government to ransom based on their unscientific ideals.
Disastrous effects of Estates take-over
The plantation sector in Sri Lanka covered around 760,000 hectares in 2002. Of this total area, around 24% was used for cultivation of tea, 21% for rubber, and 55% for coconut. The plantation sector contributed 6% of the national GDP (Central Bank of Sri Lanka, 2002).
These estates were Nationalized in 1972. After nationalization, management of the estates was given to the state owned enterprises (SOEs), namely Janawasama, State Plantations Corporation and Usawasama. The Estates that came under the third institution was managed by retired School teachers, Gramasevakas and other cronies of SLFP Ministers who knew nothing of Tea or Agriculture. Because of the ill performances of the SOEs, who ruined the tea industry, management was given to 22 private companies on a five-year-management contract in 1992. This made things worse, as at the tail end of the contract, that is when they approached the third year or so, they extracted the maximum benefits neglecting the maintenance factor.
The authorities realizing error, in1995, this contract was extended to a 50-year leasing agreement reverting back the ownership and management of tea plantations to the private sector. Thus created a new generation of tea traders and planters. They combined local resources with global knowledge to fashion a new era in
The main purpose of this agreement is to ensure that the plantations are managed efficiently and effectively by transferring the full risks and benefits of such management to the private sector.
The Arsenite Contamination Scenario in Early 1980s
Political vultures in late seventies spread a fabricated and groundless rumor against the tea industry which became an extremely injurious canard that threatened the future survival of the industry. This surpassed all previous harmful actions and disasters the industry faced in 150 years, since the first tea plantation of Sri Lanka was initiated by Scotsman James Taylor, who planted tea seedlings brought down from Assam, India on a 19 acre plot of his estate, Loolecondera in Kandy in 1867.
Increasing our tea yield levels overnight is impossible. However, experts have suggested, it can increase earnings by diversifying uses of tea. The diversification can be in as a novel drink in the beverage sector itself, and into non-beverage industry as a component for producing medicinal drugs, perfumes and cosmetics. They require investments in superior marketing techniques and sustained research and development.
Tea as a component in Pharma, Cosmetics and Aphrodisiacs
Facing worldwide challenges is inevitable as tea is concerned, it is a universal beverage. Hence, tea authorities should deviate from their current thinking and think global and act global. Ceylon tea has been highlighted for its potential aphrodisiac qualities too. Two entrepreneurs havecommenced marketing it as a highly profitable luxury product to boost the libido. One company sells a small jar of premium Ceylon for $350. A hot cup of Ceylon tea was better known as being soothing and relaxing, but Sri Lanka’s tea industry is increasingly plugging tea’s supposed aphrodisiac qualities in a bid to radically change perceptions of the brew. The industry may not yet have hard medical proof of Ceylon Teas performance-enhancing powers, but they have long been the stuff of legend among Sri Lankan tea lovers. The top-quality white teas, Silver and Golden Tips, are gaining popularity among rich Chinese, Saudis and Japanese businessmen; these teas are known for their influence and potency according to an exporter’s spokesman. Campaigning for the first time in the recent history, The Sri Lanka Tea Board is about to embark on the health benefits of a high-end cup in the major international markets.
Unlike orthodox teas, the tea buds are carefully tended and are sun-dried for the gold or silver tint to make white varieties which they claim are good for sexual health. They have marketed a Kilo at a staggering over US $1000/-at Mariage Freres tea emporium in Paris. “Your sexual performance automatically increases when your overall health improves,” added the spokesman. Had Scotsman James Taylor ever dreamt of such qualities to be present in the plant when he first planted the bush, Camellia Sinensis, in 1849 at Peradeniya.