By the time COVID-19 hit, Sri Lanka’s tea production and export earnings had already been on a declining trend. The adverse weather conditions and long-term structural issues such as labour shortages and lack of technological application have affected production levels over time. With the first wave of the pandemic, the vulnerabilities of the tea sector were exposed. Now, Sri Lanka and most of the main tea buyers are experiencing a second wave which can have far reaching negative consequences than previously anticipated. This blog discusses the impacts of COVID-19 on Sri Lanka’s tea industry and the different mitigation strategies that the government can adopt to revive the industry.
A study by IPS and GLWC examined the living wage for tea pluckers in Sri Lanka, to act as a catalyst for action throughout the value chain to raise wages towards a living wage. Here, the estimated gross living wage was Rs. 23,785 per month in January 2019. This blog argues that the prevailing wage of these workers has to be raised by at least Rs. 3,055 (15%) to reach the living wage level.
Sri Lanka’s tea industry has survived for over 150 years. This interview with H. N. Thenuwara, an author for the forthcoming IPS publication ‘Sri Lanka Tea Industry in Transition – 150 years and Beyond’, examines the challenges and opportunities facing the tea industry of Sri Lanka and provides recommendations for the way forward.
While compliance with emerging food standards encourages the advancement of Sri Lanka’s tea industry, Janaka Wijayasiri points out the importance of providing exporters the necessary support to comply with such standards.