“We have made our submission to the Tea Board, and now it’s up to them to make a decision. We feel that the best way forward is for the government to get involved very strongly with private enterprise and all industry stakeholders and work out a 5-year plan to brand Ceylon Tea alongside a country branding for Sri Lanka as well.” Roll said. He added that whilst discussions are still ongoing and no financial figures have yet been decided on, the anticipated budget for renewing Ceylon Tea’s marketing drive would be in the range of between US$ 9-10 million.
Burson-Marsteller is one of four major ad agencies bidding for marketing contract, along with Grants, Phoenix Ogilvy and Grey Worldwide.
A source close to industry discussions had previously stated that funds for the marketing drive would be sourced from the Cess collected through the export of tea, amounting to approximately half the collected fund.
Roll cited the example of Singapore Airlines as a successful country branding initiative carried out through a commercial enterprise, adding that Ceylon Tea could well be the vehicle through which Sri Lanka too could carry out its own country branding initiatives.
The government’s renewed focus on promoting Pure Ceylon Tea may be the last nail in the coffin of tea exporters plans to import and blend Ceylon Tea within the country in order to regain lost market share in the ailing industry.
Tea blending had been previously been advocated by the Tea Exporter’s Association in order to take Ceylon Tea to a wider consumer demographic by charging a lowered price for Ceylon Tea blended with cheaper varieties from Kenya, Vietnam and Indonesia amongst others.
Advocates of the creation of a tea blending hub in Sri Lanka had pointed to the fact that the blending of Ceylon tea with cheaper leaves was a trend which would continue regardless of Sri Lanka’s branding initiatives, whereas blending within Sri Lanka would allow the profits of such operations to be retained within the country whilst also allowing local stakeholders a greater say in the blending process itself.
The issue of tea blending arose more recently as on of several serious concerns being raised about the sustainability of the tea industry in the context of increases in cost of production and an anticipated dip in productivity due to a lack of sufficient replanting programmes to replace the dwindling yields of older plants.
The issue of replanting is also one of the major issues facing the industry at present with many tea planters calling for government assistance to carry out such programmes due to the prohibitively expensive costs involved.