The tea industry can become an engine for economic growth
Rome: Over the past decades, the global tea industry has seen rapid growth, with a remarkably rising number of consumers globally. Especially, tea consumption by the youth segment of the market has expanded.
Today, global tea production amounts to over $18 billion annually. Around 13 million people are involved in global tea production. As it is, tea is the world’s most consumed drink, after water, and can bring health benefits and wellness to consumers. The tea sector contributes to socioeconomic development, representing a major source of employment and income for millions of poor families worldwide.
“The tea industry can become an engine for economic growth and for restoration of the ecosystems. It can contribute to our fight against poverty and hunger, and represents a major source of income and employment, especially for rural communities,” Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), QU Dongyu, said.
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However, it is estimated that in the four major tea-producing countries (China, India, Kenya and Sri Lanka), around 9 million tea farmers are smallholders, many of whom are women, who account for 60 per cent of global tea production. They are the “backbone” of the sector.
QU today underlined the importance of smallholder tea producers for the sustainability of the sector. “We want to celebrate their achievements, but also raise awareness about the significant challenges they face, and the urgent need to mobilize political will to support them,” he said, adding that “we must all work together and leverage all possible means, including increased and more targeted public and private investments, to transform the tea sector.” He further pointed out the challenges that the world faced in the last three years, due to conflicts and economic downturns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, in overlap with extreme weather events due to the climate crisis.
He emphasized that while tea constitutes the main source of subsistence for millions of poor families, mostly in lower-income countries, these families face several challenges, including low farm gate prices, weak extension services, limited market channels, poor access to credit and technology, and obstacles to meet quality standards. “We need to build on these developments and make every effort to ensure that the tea sector benefits smallholder growers and rural communities, not only in the short but also in the longer term,” he said.
The FAO Director-General also underlined that small-scale tea operations should constantly innovate and explore new ways of doing things better in order to remain viable in an increasingly competitive market setting. “Digitalization and innovation-driven solutions, as well as access to finance, are essential to the future sustainability of the tea sector and to increase its contribution to the 2030 Agenda and achieving the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals). This is where support is needed most,” he added.
The Minister for Plantation Industries of Sri Lanka Ramesh Pathirana said Sri Lanka is one of the four largest tea-producing countries, while smallholders take the major part of the tea sector. However, economic downturns in recent years have impacted tea production, while the country has started to promote digital solutions to help tea farmers improve tea quality and quantity.
The focus of this year’s International Tea Day celebration, therefore, is smallholder tea producers. FAO today kicked off a global celebration for International Tea Day 2023 at its Rome headquarters, ahead of the official day which annually falls on May 21, as designated by the United Nations.
The FAO Intergovernmental Group (IGG) on Tea – one of FAO’s oldest commodity groups and a subsidiary body of the Committee on Commodity Problems (CCP) – represents a forum for intergovernmental consultation and exchange on trends in production, consumption, trade and prices of tea, including a regular appraisal of the global market situation and short term outlook and review of policy developments.
– global bihari bureau