Five per cent of global tea production originates from Sri Lanka, where the tea industry employs nearly one million people and contributes $1.5 billion to the country’s economy.
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In Sri Lanka, tea is hand-picked and most of the tea workforce is made up of tea pluckers – a role held predominantly by women. Increasing opportunities to secure better incomes outside the tea industry means there is a shortage of tea workers.
Close to a million people in Sri Lanka work in the tea industry. Tea estates were established during colonial times back in the 1800s, with a Tamil workforce. Many of the traditional structures and separation between workers and management have remained in place, despite changes to local ownership.
Just under half of the population in Rwanda live in extreme poverty. Poor diets and malnutrition are a concern, with 38% of children under five reported as being stunted.
China produces the greatest volume of tea in the world, and much of it is grown by the 15 million small-scale tea farmers in the country. In China farmers are generally not tied to a cooperative or particular factory, and many have not participated in organised training.
Given that nearly half of the world’s tea comes from China, it is not surprising that 80 million people in the country work in tea. The factories that process Chinese tea are varied – ranging from small, family-owned factories, to highly automated state-of the art factories. Similarly, human resource (HR) systems in place in the Chinese tea sector are also varied.
The Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP) has worked with tea communities in India over many years. We are therefore very aware of the complex, sometimes hidden, issues facing tea communities.
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Climate change is one of the major risks faced by the world today. The effects of climate change will impact how and where tea can be grown. This has serious implications for the people who depend on tea for a living. Small-scale farmers are particularly vulnerable.