France to provide 1 million euros for geographical indication (GI) certification of Ceylon Tea

Institutional news 15 December 2021
The French Development Agency (AFD) has signed a grant agreement worth 1 million euros with the Sri Lanka Tea Board (SLTB) and the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD), for the development of a geographical indication (GI) for Ceylon Tea.
Tea plantations in Sri Lanka © D. Gentilhomme, AFD
Tea plantations in Sri Lanka © D. Gentilhomme, AFD

Tea plantations in Sri Lanka © D. Gentilhomme, AFD

The agreement was signed by the AFD Country Director and SLTB Chairman, in the presence of the Hon. Minister of Plantation Industries, HE the Ambassador of France, the Hon. State Minister of Company Estate Reforms Tea and Rubber Estate Related Crops and the Hon. State Minister of Estate Housing & Community Infrastructure. The creation of a GI for Ceylon Tea is intended to promote quality products, protect traditional know-how, and enhance commercial value and recognition on international markets.

Sri Lanka's tea sector dates back more than 150 years and is the country's second-highest net foreign exchange earner. ‘Ceylon Tea’, identified by the Lion Logo, exhibits unique qualities with a range of flavours and aromas. The geographical aspects and conditions of each of the seven tea-producing regions have a significant influence on the characteristics of the teas they produce. Despite its uniqueness, ‘Ceylon Tea’ does not have protection to uphold and authenticate the product's quality reputation. Counterfeit Ceylon tea is sold in various consumer countries.  

Geographical Indication (GI) certification serves to uphold and authenticate the quality, reputation and characteristics of a product by linking it to a specific territory through intellectual property protection, while also giving it added value on national and international markets. 

This grant will, over a four-year period, provide technical assistance to establish GI and the relevant certification systems for ‘Ceylon Tea’. It will enable CIRAD, which has proven experience in the implementation of geographical indications, and the UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organization), which has been working for several years on the establishment of a GI for Ceylon cinnamon, to support SLTB and numerous actors from the tea industry. Through this process, the ‘Ceylon Tea’ value chain is expected to become more productive, inclusive, and sustainable. Ceylon Tea will have enhanced added value on international markets through intellectual property protections and national and international certifications.

AFD in Sri Lanka is committed to support integrated, sustainable and resilient agricultural value chains. The tea industry is a large contributor to income generation in rural area and a positive driver of economic growth. We are pleased to accompany the development of GI and certifications on Ceylon Tea that will be crucial to protect traditional agricultural and industrial know-how while promoting improved living conditions and better natural resource management along the value chain.” said Reda Souirgi, Country Director of AFD in Sri Lanka.

The Honourable Dr Ramesh Pathirana, Minister of Plantation Industries, stated in his speech that this was a momentous occasion in the 150-year history of Ceylon Tea. The Ceylon Tea industry is currently stagnant, mainly due to the limited expansion of the global market and to social and economic issues in the major importing countries such as those in the Middle East. However, Ceylon Tea export revenue has ranged from 1.3 to 1.5 billion US dollars over the past five years, which the minister highlighted was a sizeable income in relation to the country’s total export revenue of 12 billon US dollars. As a result, new avenues must be created to build upon the current situation, and a GI is hugely important. Once this GI is established, this will create value and ensure sustainability, inclusiveness and productivity of Ceylon Tea. The minister went on to say that he was grateful to H.E. the Ambassador of France to Sri Lanka, on behalf of the 2 million people directly and indirectly involved in Sri Lanka’s tea industry, for creating this opportunity for the betterment of Ceylon Tea.

I am very proud to witness the launch of a fruitful cooperation between the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD) and Sri Lanka Tea Board (SLTB) on geographical indication supported by French Development Agency (AFD). France has been a pioneer in the establishment of Geographical Indications contributing to create added value to its quality products and preserve the reputation of French gastronomy over the world. I am confident that the solid experience of CIRAD in partnership with the UNIDO and the SLTB, will allow a broad endorsement of the Geographic Indication by all stakeholders, based on high-level product quality, together with sound environmental and social standards”, said HE Eric Lavertu, Ambassador of France to Sri Lanka.

Furthermore, Mr Jayampathy Mollogoda, the Chairman of Sri Lanka Tea Board stated, “The registration for Ceylon Tea in Sri Lanka will not automatically create eligibility for a GI registration for the “Ceylon Tea” name in overseas markets. Although, the reputation factor of Ceylon Tea could be well established, it is mandatory to prove the identification and verification of the origin of “Ceylon Tea” as against other origins through qualitative and quantitative research. Towards this end, the Sri Lanka Tea Board has sought assistance from AFD to finance the partnership, we wish to enter into and implement with CIRAD, as a technical partner in order to support Ceylon Tea value creation through the development of   geographical indication and International Quality certifications. Accordingly, the French Development Agency (AFD), a French government agency, has agreed to provide financial assistance to Sri Lanka Tea Board through CIRAD, as a technical partner. This agreement is to set out the terms and conditions governing the partnership between the SLTB, the agency (AFD) and the technical partner (CIRAD).”

About The French Development Agency

The French Development Agency (Agence Française de Développement – AFD) implements France’s policy on international development and solidarity. Through its financing of NGOs and the public sector, as well as its research and publications, AFD supports and accelerates transitions towards a fairer, more resilient world. It also provides training in sustainable development (at AFD Campus) and other awareness-raising activities in France.

With its partners, it is building shared solutions with and for the people of the Global South. Its teams are at work on more than 4000 projects in the field, in the French Overseas Departments and Territories, in 115 countries and in regions in crisis. It strives to protect global public goods – promoting a stable climate, biodiversity and peace, as well as gender equality, education and healthcare. In this way, it contributes to the commitment of France and the French people to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Towards a world in common.

About the Sri Lanka Tea Board 

Ceylon tea has been one of the country’s principal and most famous exports; for generations, it formed the backbone of the Sri Lankan economy, and plays a major part, even today, in the country’s fortunes. The Tea Board is the apex regulatory and administrative body of the Sri Lankan tea industry. First set up in 1976, it comprises representatives from both private and government bodies involved in the industry,

As the regulatory body, the Sri Lanka Tea Board is responsible for regulating the activities of the tea industry, viz. production, increase of cultivation, replanting, rehabilitating old gardens, establishment of factories and monitoring their operations. The whole process has been monitored and evaluated from factory to shipment to maintain the “Quality of Ceylon tea” and many actions have been initiated to intensify the monitoring of quality standards of tea at the point of sale, pre-shipment, the warehouses of brokers, blenders and exporters, and provide advisory services on hygienic blending and storage.

SLTB conducts promotional activities throughout the year, to market and promote Ceylon tea globally, collect and interpret tea statistics and ensure the competency of the actual markets and the ability to maintain and expand Ceylon tea on leading markets. With the sole purpose of protecting the Ceylon Tea brand locally and internationally, the SLTB is keen toestablish the required control systems to protect “Ceylon Tea” as a geographical indication. Furthermore, the sector is eager to register the GI protection system on important export markets with a view to preventing infringement and the passing-off of teas originating from outside Sri Lanka as “Ceylon Tea”.