English Tea Shop, a leading UK-based independent specialty and organic tea company hosted its first ever Organic Forum on 17th September 2018, cementing Sri Lanka’s position as an Organic Powerhouse and one of the leading organic farming nations in the world.
The Prajāva mindset is, in essence, the act of becoming central and integral to the community and therefore influencing those around you for the better. English Tea Shop have harnessed this mindset through the Organic Forum in a bid to educate their fellow community in the hope of becoming an entirely sustainable Sri Lanka.
English Tea Shop’s purpose led vision of “celebrating communities from farm to cup” has encouraged other businesses and local communities to engage in dialogue on how the Sri Lankan organic industry can move to even greater lengths.
The forum was attended by over 150 delegates across businesses, local farms as well as research and educational institutes.
The keynote speech was delivered by Lee Holdstock, Trade Relations Manager, Soil Association. The speech addressed the journey to date of the organic industry. A key takeaway was the level of innovation involved in organic farming as it is completely self-sufficient, meaning all aspects of wildlife, from bees to weeds, are used to manage the farms - nothing is sourced from external organisations. Lee spoke about Sri Lanka’s position in the organic production cycle, highlighting the importance of pushing the country forward to becoming entirely organic.
Holdstock also expressed the importance of shifting the current perception of organic produce being purchased by wealthy individuals as opposed to the products being accessible by the public. Holdstock’s point highlighted that whole, naturally sourced produce should be a right, rather than a privilege.
Prof. Piyasena Abayagunawardena, the founder of Ahinsa Teas who gave up a career at Texas University in a bid to pursue his passion for organic farming, explained how, in Sri Lanka, every challenge in organic farming is seen as an opportunity. A holistic approach is required as every part of the environment should be taken into consideration, for instance weeds are being utilised and used as a resource as opposed to being disposed of. The professor called for action to re-define the agriculture and weed-science through approaches that are not solely dominated by consumerism.
During the forum Sumith Ponnamperuma, Managing Director of Control Union explained the process involved in obtaining international organic certification.
The need to promote organic farming amongst the Sri Lankan farming community while still maintaining high productivity was highlighted by the Director of the Horticulture Crop Research and Development Institute. Vinoka Perera, Assistant Director, National Organic Control Unit, explained how the monitoring body of organic products in Sri Lanka works and their plan to help consumers enjoy the real organic products.
During the event, English Tea Shop’s CEO Suranga Herath invited industry leaders to partake in a panel discussion. The participants included all the speakers as well as Dr. Sarath Ranaweera and Ms. Thilini Upadya Gunasekara from Export Development Board. One of the key insights shared was that the organic businesses and certifiers should play a much more serious role in improving integrity & transparency across the value chain and strive to improve the livelihood of organic farming communities in the developing world.
CEO of English Tea Shop, Suranga Herath said: “The discussions throughout the day were extremely fruitful, it was a pleasure to host leaders across the numerous sectors to discuss the importance of organic farming and the role our beautiful country of Sri Lanka can play in this. There is so much left to do, but I believe that collectively we will take the organic industry to even greater lengths”
English Tea Shop’s 100% organic teas and tisanes were served throughout the event.