In conversation with R. Gnanasekaran,Project Manager of Idulgashina Bio Tea Garden, SriLanka.
Q. Pls provide a background on the work of Stassen Natural Foods (Pvt.) Ltd. (Idulgashina Bio Tea Garden) in the Fairtrade tea supply chain? What makes it uniquely sustainable and the challenges therein? No. of farmers in the organisation?
A. Stassen Natural Foods, a member of the Stassen Group moved into organic many years ago and in 1987 earned the distinction of having the world’s finest certified organic tea garden. The Export Development Board of Sri Lanka conferred pioneering status to Stassen having to produced the first organic tea in the country. The garden consists of 16 tea smallholdings with a total extent of 350 hectares. These gardens are situated just below the famous Horton Plains, geographically at the Heputale- Beragalle summits of Uva province in Sri Lanka, producing world famous special Uva tea flavor. The elevation varies from 1000 meters to 2000 meters. The factory is situated at the top of the Haputale Horton Plains Mountain range at an elevation of 1800 meters, producing 200 mt of black and green tea, which possesses a sharp and refreshing taste.
Q. When and why did the Organization get Fairtrade certified? What changes did you make to become Fairtrade certified?
A. The organisation for Fairtrade certified in 1994 on requests from our buyers. We organized Premium committee and trained them to manage the premium funds independently.
Q. What is the importance of Fairtrade tea to the workers in Tea Plantations? How has their life improved since becoming involved with Fairtrade? Can you explain the changes you have seen in the community?
A. The workers have gained Dignity, independence, Freedom & equal Rights, Better housing & Health.
Q. What are the different types of tea that the plantation supply? How much of the products are sold on FT terms?
A. Idulgashinna Bio Tea Garden produces a range of teas that are 100% organic and 100% natural, and includes a premium selection of black, green, flavoured, and designer teas that are in demand by an eager and expanding client base across the world. 20% of the production have been sold under Fairtrade.
Q. Is the production likely to increase or decline in the coming season? What are the major challenges?
A. The production will be increased due to our buyers request. The main challenges faced is in terms of pricing and maintenance of quality.
Q. What are the major countries of export?
A. EU, USA, Australia, China, Japan
Q. Can you name major retails brands that you are currently supplying to? Is there a growth in demand?
A. Stassen, Q Trade . There is a growth in demand for premium quality tea.
Q. Is there any message you would like to share with other Tea Plantations who aren’t involved with Fairtrade?
A. My message to Tea Plantation Management:- Due to increase in improvement in standard of life the attitude of workers will be changed, thereby leading to increase in output of work. The quality of product and environment will also be increased. To Workers:- Fairtrade will lead to Quality of life, Better living condition, Environment and great future for Women & Children