LATEST NEWS PAGE
DATE UP-DATED: 30th. July- 2014
NEW WAGE AGREEMENT 2013 FOR CEYLON TEA ESTATE WORKERS:
I have recently received the latest information on the new agreement reached between the 20 tea estate companies and the twelve representatives of the Unions at their bi-annual meeting from the 'Employers' Federation of Ceylon'. The details have been posted today on the Website in the Fairtrade button on the left of the home page.
2013 Estate - Union wages and benefits negotiations:
The estates have finished their bi-annual discussion with the unions.
The 2009 negotiation gave the workers a basic wage of Rs.405/= up from their previous basic of Rs.170/= per day, however with the attendance bonuses and productivity bonus, they received Rs.260/= for 2006 and in 2009 it rose to Rs.525/= per day.
For 2013 - 2015 the basic wage is Rs.450/= with a price share supplement of Rs.30/= and an Attendance Incentive Bonus of Rs.140/= per day on 75 % attendance of days of work offered. Giving a total possible daily wage of Rs.620/=.
In addition the pluckers are offered a payment of Rs.20/= for every kilo of leaf plucked above the daily estate set NORM and this can add considerably to their daily pay.Naturally the best pluckers will pluck very large quantities of kilos above the NORM which is set to allow even the less skilled pluckers to achieve a quantity of kilos above the NORM. These wage levels are well above wages in other producing countries.
Clearly any increase is going to impact on the cost of production and require the cost of Ceylon teas to rise with Colombo being the highest price auction centre in the world this cannot be good for future prospects of the resident workers should the estates have to bring in mechanical plucking and other labour saving practices. Mechanical plucking will mean abandoning many of the high grown steep areas and concentrating on less opportunities for the workers.
As I have already pointed out elsewhere the estate workers are now earning above equivalent worker grades in the capital city and have many more advantages with housing etc.
We have at last managed to secure a quality light liquoring Uva tea in the 2014 Season and this will be arriving in four weeks time.
BRUNSWICK and BREAKFAST BLEND TEAS
Stocks of Brunswick and Breakfast Blend tea are on their way and should be stocked and appearing in the WEB SHOP in about two weeks time. We have had to wait for the rains to stop and the dry weather to arrive so that we can get the quality that we work to.
NEW - BIODEGRADABLE PYRAMID TEA BAGS
We are changing our traditional double gusset tea bag range toteh new type totally Biodegradable pyramid tea bags. These are made from a polymer extract from corn starch. Due to the extraction process and the very high temperatures involved any GMO material that might have been present is destroyed. We hold certificates from tests carried out on the material which support this fact.
CEYLON TEA PROMOTION
A special reception was held at the Sri Lankan High Commission last evening by kind invitation from Dr. Chris Nonis when a Presentation of 'Ceylon Tea' was given by the Chairperson of the Sri Lanka Tea Board and also by Hasitha De Alwis, Director - Tea Promotion at the Sri Lanka Tea Board.
This highlighted the fact that the term 'Ceylon Tea' had now been registered as a certification marks along with the names of the 7 major tea growing regions - Nuwara Eliya, Dimbula, Uva, Udapussellawa, Kandy, Ruhunu and Sabaragamuwa, under the Geographical Indications of the the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) within the auspices of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
It also highlighted the fact that Sri Lanka is the first country in the world to be recognized as a producer of 'Ozone Friendly' tea and awarded the Ozone Friendly Ceylon Tea Logo which has also been registered now in some 30 importing countries.
Finally the Tea Board were interested to the views of those attending as to how a promotional programme might be introduced in the U.K. I am hopeful that the board will decide to invest in a programme aimed at the upper end of the tea market here in the U.K. which I have been pressing for, for several years now.
CEYLON TEAS - FIRST TO BE AWARDED OZONE FRIENDLY LOGO AND REGISTRATION OF 'CEYLON TEA'.
1. The Sri Lankan Tea Board have undertaken the registration of the name 'Ceylon Tea' plus the registration of names of the seven major tea growing regions - Nuwara Eliya, Dimbula, Uddapussellawa, Uva, Kandy, Ruhuna & Sabaragamuwa under the Geographical Indications of the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) within the auspices of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
The aim is to deliver an authentic product to the consumer and achieve international status similar to other such protections such as the International GI 'Blue Mountain' for coffee or 'Basmati' for rice. Click our Facebook link
2. Sri Lanka is the first country in the world to be recognised as a producer of Ozone friendly tea. Methyl Bromide is often used extensively in pest management in agriculture warehousing and pre-shipment holding purposes. Methyl Bromide is an aggressive Ozone Depletion Substance (ODS). Registration of the Ozone Friendly Logo was undertaken by the Sri Lankan Tea Board in 30 tea importing countries 2011 - 2012 and this is now completed.
We have a large selection of high quality GIFT PACKS listed the gift section of the webshop. Many hand crafted by our craftsman in Sri Lanka.
We are temporarily out of Black Pepper and Cardamoms as it is out of season but I shall be renewing our stocks of these packs once the new harvesting season arrives.
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE TEA GROWERS AND THE U.K. TEA COUNCIL:
It is important for consumers to understand that the relationship between the different tea growing areas and the U.K. Tea Council has changed. In the past the Tea Council received a contribution from each tea growing region and the role of the Council was to be an unbiased central information centre promoting 'TEA' in all its different regional forms and characters, the promotion of quality plus the monitoring of statements claimed by commercial interests. The Council has also been funded by those U.K. packers who wished to join the Council and here again the Council undertook to provide a set of standards that these packers would operate with and therefore buyers would supposedly have confidence in buying from those packers.
However in recent years the Council has been seen by many including myself to be promoting the interests of U.K. packers to the detriment of the interests of the growing regions and this has led to the growing regions withdrawing their contribution to the Council until we have the present situation where only Kenya contributes to the Council and I understand that even Kenya maybe considering their position.
The U.K. has progressively moved to the cheaper end of the tea market and is obsessed with the concept of convenience and yet calling convenience blended thick liquoring teas, quality. This has allowed the packers here in the UK to blend and pack to the price structure that allows them to react to the enormous pressure from the supermarket trade to lconstantly ower or hold prices in a rising market. Blending teas can have two aims, a) to use teas from different areas to provide a blend that suits the naturally occurring water in each area of the U.K. and that was the process used by the trade some years ago or b) to blend various teas to suit water that the major water companies deliver with added chemicals to a local supply that may be of hard or soft water and increasingly to a price structure. In my father's time the UK purchased in the region of 85 % of total Ceylon tea production which at that time was about 220 million Kg, whereas to today the U.K. imports only just over one million Kg out of a total production of approximately 300 million kilos. Because Ceylon teas have a reputation for quality the Colombo auction has become the highest priced auction centre in the world with Calcutta coming second.
A few years ago the various tea growing regions approached the Tea Councils to see if they would co-operate in classifying tea as the product obtained from the bush Camellia Sinensis. Most food products these days have moved in that direction to protect the authenticity of their production. The Tea Councils were unable to support the move and in my view this was because of their loyalty to their packing membership who wished to have free rein as to how they were able to market the product which is why today the consumer is presented with a confusing array of what is termed tea with little or no guidance on the packet as to what the packet contains, after all Breakfast tea means nothing in production terms. The Camelia Sinensis is a plant that produces naturally developing characters and flavours depending on the soil, elevation and weather that it happens to grow in and as the trade moves more and more to the pressure of price, we shall see the amazing Ceylon high grown teas being abandoned and the horrifying prospect of 'machine harvesting' with hundreds of thousands of jobs being lost. Ask the 'average UK consumer' what tea they like and they will almost certainly reply a good strong 'builders' tea that takes milk and probably sugar. Who needs skilled tea-makers and skilled hand plucking to make 'builders' tea which is a combination of cheaper small leaf teas and teas from several regions such as Assam plus Kenya where the tea has a thicker liquor !! It is possible to produce a Ceylon thick tea if one combines several off-grades which are unmarketable as far as the Sri Lankan Tea Board are concerned but that is the level to which the commercial interests have taken us to.
I have received some inquiries from several people for a tour in February or March 2014 and so I am putting this together now with our contacts in the island. Once the final details are complete they will be entered into the comments to be seen via the TOUR button and I shall be hoping to finalise numbers as soon as is it is possible to do so after that as this is now becoming a hugely popular tourist destination.
Naturally high prices are not conducive to those of us selling teas to the market but where consumers require the basic right for workers in the industry to be properly rewarded for their work, this will inevitably lead to producers requiring fair and proper prices for their tea and the Industry has been moving steadily with higher prices begining to balance the large wage awards that have been negotiated particularly in Sri Lanka (Ceylon).
Working with seasonal quality teas as we do, we try to keep stocks in hand to last for six months and those stocks will begin to look reasonable compared to the present market conditions until new stocks replace them.
TEA RE-PLANTING PROGRAMME IN SRI LANKA
I understand that the Government have decreed that all company estates must speed-up the re-planting prgramme from 2 % per annum to 3 % per annum. This is good news as it will hopefully increase estate yields from their very low point at present, leading to greater opportunities for the tea pluckers to increase the quantity that they can pluck which with the new increase kilo overbound bonus system will allow them to contribute directly to the profitability of the estates and the estates will then feel more able to continue to raise the living standards of their workers. The recent high wage awards without sufficient linkage to higher production have proved unsustainable.
Latest negotiation on wages in Sri Lanka:
The complete summary of the wages and benefits just agreed this year can be seen by clicking teh Fairtrade button and in the main page can be seen a link in red 'Download the Wages PDF'
The estate represenntatives and unions have just concluded the regular bi-annual negotiation on wages. After a period of hard bargaining during which the transfer of teas from the estates to the auction were stopped by the unions, a deal has been agreed. The estates are trying to make the unions aware that after a series of wage deals which have seen wages rise by 44 % in 2006 and 102 % in 2009 that these rises have made Colombo teas, already the highest priced of all auction centres in the world, uncompetitive plus the fact that the estates having raised the living standards of its workers to high levels compared to areas like Kenya and unable to fund certain field operations that are needed if the yields are to be raised in order to fund such high wages.
Long droughts have lowered yields on the estates and fields of aging bushes that need re-planting are not being re-planted at the rate that is necessary due to the lack of investment funds in spite of the higer tea prices.
This year has seen a lower wage settlement where hopefully the unions have realised that ever higher wage seetlements will hasten the arrival of plucking by machines and the abandonment of some of the best teas grown at high elevations where machinery cannot be employed. This situation is already underway in Kenya where the unions there are complaing bitterly about large numbers of redundancies which they equate to machine plucking and the estate companies such as Unilever are blaming the long droughts that are becoming regular events and lack of crop requiring lower numbers of pluckers.
The recent wage settlement has increased production costs by an average of Rs.45 per kilo of made tea. The problem goes beyond just the cost of the wage settlement in that higher wages equal higher contributions to the workersw Provident fund and estate contributions to the trust fund that funds worker welfare.
Fairtrade - Is it helping?:
Fairtrade contributes nothing to the estates directly, the only function that it has in Sri Lanka is that of promoting marketing of teas from the auction level but not direct sale teas at the estates and it's members contribute a small contribution to a workers fund but as we have seen Sri Lankan tea workers are highly paid with the recent negotiations and the worker fund can only be used for small items such as a mini bus or community hall which most estates already have in place from the government welfare trust or from direct estate contributions. The minus side of their contribution is that the estates are charged certification fees which keep rising and the office staff work burden is increased. Fairtrade organisations do contribute to worker welfare in areas like Kenya where the Government is not the owner of the land.
Facebook & Linkedlin Presence:
There is a page now on Facebook with links to this website and also a page on Linkedlin where I am active in discussions on tea via the 'Tea Group'.
The link below will take you to the article.
Many consumers are concerned that the companies that they purchase products from, should be classified in some way to show that the company has made significant efforts to reduce their carbon footprint wherever possible.
As a business here in the South-West we have examined where we create a carbon footprint. Firstly we operate with the procurement of special manufactures of tea to our specific requirements. The fact is that tea is not grown in the U.K. at least not of any significance or the right quality so we are bound to work abroad and import the teas. Our operation will at all times where possible use containers and ship by the sea route. One ship will carry many hundreds of containers and it is the lowest footprint that is possible for imports. Occaisionally we get a client urgently requiring a batch of tea and in that case we may use air freight if it really is urgent.
Since we do not pack our teas here in the U.K. all that work is done in Sri Lanka before shipping and we try to use eco friendly packaging where possible with cartons etc being made from recycled materials.
Where small exports to Europe are required we have to supply from here but any large orders will be sent direct from Colombo by sea.
Finally I personally have always had an interest in woodland management from my planting days and as an extra activity to reduce our carbon footprint I have planted some 6 acres of new woodland on our own ground here besides having renovated 14 acres of run down woodland, re-planted it and sold it on.
This business will at all times in the interest of the environment and also in the interests of reducing costs strive to be as efficient as is possble.
I have again assessed our position on joining an ethical label such as Fairtrade and I contacted Fairtrade in September to dicuss where Fairtrade stood at present. This island is different to many other producing areas in that the Government hold the overall control on the estate lands and provides the welfare provision to the estates with teh estates making a contribution where they can.
I was able to up-date Mr. Byers at Fairtrade on the present situation that exists in the island with regard to wage levels and bonus payments since the latest bi-annual estate/Union negotiations finished in January. With the present situation we are still paying well over the odds for our teas to be made at the estates and morally membership cannot be justified.
I accept Mr. Byewrs explanation to me that Fairtrade does operate satisfactorily in most producing countries but that Sri Lanka does have a peculiar situation that they are looking at and may haver to adjust their system to.
This island has a shortage of labour on the estates and therefore the unions have been in a very strong position for some years now. The wage levels on the estates are now well above Colombo wage levels where employees have to find their own accomodation as well. I have written and up-dated the section on Fairtrade which is a section that can be accessed by clicking on the 'TRADE' button and this will release some three sections under Trade. In the Fairtrade section you can now see the wage levels that I have entered in the last paragraph of that piece. We are constantly under pressure to join these labels and it is a nightmare trying to get the situation that that exist across to potential buyers.
I have taken the opportunity to contact both the 'Which' organisation and also Mr. Harry Wallop at the Daily Telegraph in the hope that the media may one day put forth an accurate assessment on where these labels benefit producers and where they do not live up to their claims as it is vital at atime like this taht consumers know that the extra money involved in their purchases under these labels is being distributed to the benfit of the industries involved.
This web site is owned and operated by Robert Wilson's 'Ceylon' Tea in the U.K. who are completely dedicated to sourcing and delivering teas to your total satisfaction. If you have any suggestions or comments or if you need to contact us, please email us using the link on the store page or use the details below.
A business with direct access to Individual estate manufacture for very high quality Ceylon teas, locally harvested fresh spices & quality whole Cashew nuts (Kadju nuts).
Our Contact details:
Robert Wilson's 'Ceylon' Tea.
TA18 7SX. U.K.
Phone: 44 (0)1460 77508
Fax: 44 (0)1460 77508
VAT Tax Reg: GB 723 4483 40
Certification to import Organic & Biodynamic products: GB-ORG-06
Business Branch Sri Lanka:
Robert Wilson's 'Ceylon' Teas (PVT)., Ltd,
Certification to export Organic & Biodynamic products: CU International - Skal.