ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lankan tea factories owned by people who adulterate black tea to get higher prices will be shut down from next month, Tea Board Chairman Rohan Pethiyagoda said.
Making good tea is difficult but consumers want a clean product, he said at a forum on the tea supply chain organized by the Shippers’ Academy Colombo.
“Consumers have a right to clean tea,” Pethiyagoda said. “From next month, I will be selecting factories whose tea we will clean and if we find it is contaminated we will shut them down.
“Of the 700 factories in Sri Lanka, we could have a better industry if we shut down a couple of hundred,” he said.
“If people can’t produce tea that would be recognised as the best in the world they don’t deserve to be in business.”
The latest abuse was that factory managers have been found adulterating their tea with sugar, a practice that everyone in the industry is concerned about as it could damage the image of Ceylon tea.
Detecting tea adulterated with sugar, to blacken the tea and get higher prices, was difficult given the several hundred chemical compounds involved, although experienced tea tasters are able to spot it.
The Tea Board has been trying to weed out factories engaged in the practice but since tea adulterated with sugar fetches high prices, it acts as an incentive for bad factories, Pethiyagida said.
“My approach to factories who get caught – there were over a dozen last year – is to shut them down, put them out of business, never allow them to come back.
“But we don’t. Instead we suspend them. They go behind politicians and eventually, after a few months, they are back in business adding sugar again,” Pethiyagoda said.
Because of the money involved, part of the criminal underclass was now running tea factories.
“They get up to all sorts of mischief. It is difficult to catch these people. When you catch them, they use influence.”
(COLOMBO, January 30, 2018)