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Sri Lanka tea industry facing up to new challenges

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Since the Spanish flu infected close to a third of the, then global population a century ago, not even the First & Second World Wars could bring about an enormous tragedy on the human race until the COVID 19 pandemic hit all corners of Planet Earth. The New Corona Virus cases are already racing towards the 50 million mark and the death toll exceeding 1.2 million people with just the Second Wave of the pandemic beginning to spread all over the world like a wild fire aided by the natural wind.

The in tropical & mystic island of Sri Lanka blessed with abundance of rich culture and fertile nature, rain forest, daily direct sunlight of at least 6 hours throughout the year resulting in a conducive climate, soil and weather ideal for growing tea.

Sri Lanka in entirety and the tea industry in particular overcame the First Wave of the COVID 19 during the 2nd Quarter of 2020 with admirable success. The immediate transformation from an “outcry system” to an online electronic Colombo Tea Auction after more than 125 years and the continuation of the total value chain mechanism from the growing, plucking, manufacturing, selling at the weekly auctions, blending & packaging, and finally marketing & exporting branded, packeted or bulk form during the lockdown by defining the tea industry and its export process as an essential service saved the day for “Ceylon Tea”. Though the tea crop has declined over 10% due to a number of causes, the tea prices fetched at the Colombo Tea Auction has in fact appreciated by 15% up to end of September 2020 vis-a-vis same period of last year from Rs 542 per kilo to Rs 624 per kilo.

Today, the world has reached a crucial milestone where every nation is searching for human immunity boosting methods to counter the Corona Virus infection until an effective vaccination is introduced to the global masses. In that context, drinking warm beverages and inhaling hot vapour is generally believed to be helpful. This is where the Tea Research Institute of Sri Lanka (TRI) in collaboration with the analytical laboratory of SLTB has conducted a literature survey and further studies on “Theaflavins in Black Tea” and concluded black tea may be helpful in controlling and flushing out the viruses. The TRI has released a scientific publication under the topic “Antiviral properties of Tea” where it has been noted that drinking Black Tea helps to fight viruses. It could theoretically draw a parallel to a Taiwan research study (original article published in 2005) where the chemical structure of 64 compounds had been bioinformatically modelled against SARS – COVID – 2.

The hypothesis developed by the scientists that “Theaflavins” an antioxidant polyphenol richly found in Black Tea could potentially inhibit an enzyme from the Corona family and increase the human immunity, will need further investigations to establish authenticity. Nevertheless, “Theaflavins” is proven to be a compound which could alleviate respiratory diseases and open air passages in the human lungs for the facilitation of breathing. Further, the laboratory scientists at Sri Lanka Tea Board suggest, that frequent consumption of hot Black Tea (without sugar & milk) and inhaling the tea fumes is supportive of flushing viruses trapped in the throat and nasal area. This reaction helps in improving the immune capacity and inhibiting inflammation due to Catechins and Polyphenols contained in Black Tea. It should be mentioned here that consumption of Black Tea has not been proven medically as a treatment against the COVID 19 until extensive research studies are conducted with human trials. 

In this connection, the Sri Lanka tea industry stakeholders have moved rapidly towards online meetings, lively discussions and working group sessions with the international clientele through virtual platforms such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom conferences. All promotional campaigns for Ceylon Tea for the future are being focused through digital and social media against the backdrop of a pandemic lockdown in many global destinations. Utilizing the power of social media applications such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, We chat etc through an identified panel of Influences, Bloggers, Authentic Opinion Makers and a few Celebrities Ceylon Tea clips, videos, messages, electronic banners etc are to be aired within the global campaign. It will be reinforced through search engines marketing availing Google, Yandex, Baidu and other effective digital media as per the respective countries of operation. This strategy is to be combined with other necessary upgrades on the supply chain mechanism. 

Hasitha de Alwis Consultant 

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Seylan Bank’s Islamic Banking Wins Gold at SLIBFI Awards 2019 and Bronze at IFSSA Awards 2020 for Islamic Finance Deal of the Year

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Seylan Bank PLC’s Islamic Banking Unit has placed Sri Lanka prominently in the world of Islamic Finance, securing the joint Gold Award for Deal of the Year 2019 at the recently concluded Sri Lanka Islamic Banking and Finance Industry (SLIBFI) Awards 2019 and Bronze for the same deal at the regional Islamic Finance Forum of South Asia (IFFSA) Awards 2020. Seylan Bank was recognized for successfully financing a Diminishing Musharaka Facility to Timex Bukinda Hydro (U) Ltd as part of a syndicate facility.

The SLIBFI Awards, the premium industry awards for Islamic Finance in Sri Lanka, are presented in conjunction with KPMG, whose key role is to ensure an impartial evaluation process. An independent panel of judges of repute assist in the final adjudications, under the guidance of KPMG. The IFFSA Awards recognize the high achievers in the South Asian region for their efforts in Islamic Banking and Finance during 2019 with industry leading practitioners from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Maldives, India, and other South Asian Countries competing alongside Sri Lanka for accolades.

“Islamic banking is broadly adopted around the world and the preferred choice for some of our clients. Seylan Bank’s Islamic Banking Unit takes pride in being able to facilitate such an important deal for our client. Furthermore, this multiple award-winning deal has also placed Sri Lanka firmly in the global Islamic Finance map” said Ramesh Jayasekara, Chief Operating Officer, Seylan Bank.

The Timex Bukinda Hydro (U) Ltd project transaction has resulted in Sri Lanka understanding the proficiencies and capabilities of Islamic Banking and Financing which has a mere 20-year history in the country. It also portrays Sri Lanka’s own management expertise and engineering capabilities in establishing hydro power plants overseas, thereby putting Sri Lanka on the Global Islamic Banking map.

Speaking on the dual awards M Z Sameer Mohamed, Head- Islamic Banking Unit – Seylan Bank stated, “We are very humbled by the recognition this transaction has received from the wider Islamic Finance community. It has firmly placed Sri Lanka as a partner of choice for future cross border transactions via Sharia compliant platforms, and also created confidence in Foreign Investors and other leading Islamic Financial institutions to obtain more syndicate financing facilities in achieving their corporate goals, which as a result would promote Islamic Finance.”

Seylan Bank, the Bank with a Heart, operates with a vision to offer the ultimate banking experience to its valued customers through cutting-edge technology, innovative products, and best-in-class service. The Bank has a growing clientele of SMEs, Retail and Corporate Customers and has expanded its footprint with 173 branches across the country and an ATM network of 216 units. Seylan Bank has been endorsed as a financially stable organisation with performance excellence across the board by Fitch Ratings, with the bank’s national long-term rating revised upward, from ‘A-(lka)’ to ‘A (lka)’. The bank was ranked second among public listed companies for transparency in corporate reporting by Transparency Global. Seylan Bank has also been named the Most Popular Banking Service Provider in Sri Lanka in Customer Experience by LMD consecutively in 2019 and 2020. These achievements are a testament to Seylan Bank’s financial stability and unwavering dedication to ensure excellence across all endeavours.

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LOLC Finance launches SAVI, the first Credit Card for Pensioners and State employees

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Taking Sri Lanka on a journey towards a cashless world, LOLC Finance – Sri Lanka’s largest Non-Banking Financial Institution (NBFI) has introduced a Credit Card named Savi, which has been exclusively designed for pensioners and State sector employees in the country.

The card was introduced as a part of LOLC Finance’s overall digitisation strategy which is in line with the Central Bank’s ‘2020 – Year of Digital Transactions’ plan to promote and create awareness on digital payments throughout the country.

The Savi Credit Card comes with a variety of offers and benefits exclusively for pensioners and State sector employees. The applicants are not required to pay the joining fee and the annual charges which makes their experience with the card much more rewarding.

A special savings account with a free ATM card with zero charges on withdrawals and online transactions are among the many benefits offered with the Savi card. In addition, LOLC Finance has partnered with some of the country’s leading retail outlets to offer valuable discounts and offers to Savi cardholders.

Conrad Dias, Director/CEO of LOLC Finance PLC and Director LOLC Holdings PLC said, “LOLC Finance is on a mission to support and promote cashless transactions to all segments of the society. We believe, it is our duty to enable pensioners with a cashless journey with multiple benefits since they are the forefathers of our society. Our digitisation strategy has always been a definite competitive advantage that has placed us ahead of our peers at all times”.

The Head of Consumer & Digital Business of LOLC Finance, Hasala Thilekaratne added, “The Savi card is designed to offer unmatched convenience and financial support to this very important segment of our economy. It is also designed on a unique concept to attract and build partnerships with key service providers and to ultimately deliver significant value to the end user. These partnerships will be based on key verticals, always ensuring that the focus and relevance to the target audience is given priority, which in turn will give the end user more reasons to embrace the product”.

In addition, Savi Cardholders are eligible to apply for an instant loan to the maximum value of Rs. 2.5 million with approvals within 24 hours to fulfil any of their urgent financial requirements.

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JKOA joins hands with Asus to release the all-new Expert Center Series Desktop PCs

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ASUS Global designates JKOA as their authorized dealers in Sri Lanka

John Keells Office Automation (Pvt) Ltd. (JKOA), the nation’s leading provider of office automation solutions has partnered with ASUS, the leading multinational company known for the world’s best motherboards, PCs, laptops, notebooks, monitors, graphics cards and routers. ASUS with over 16000 world-class employees and around 5000 R&D teams diligently working towards novel innovations and advanced technology has indeed gained itself a world-renowned recognition for their contribution towards the advancement of the digital world. ASUS Global has designated JKOA, established in 1992, a fully owned subsidiary of John Keells Holdings PLC as their authorized dealers in Sri Lanka. JKOA is highly regarded and is known as a veritable mover and shaker in office automation solutions encompassing a product portfolio of globally established brands. Through this partnership, ASUS has unveiled the All-New Expert Center Series Desktop PCs to Sri Lanka. These are varied, state-of-the-art business desktops that enables extended asset lifecycles, wide range of configurability and eco-friendly sustainability.

To satisfy the needs of every different type of trade and industry, ExpertCenter desktop PCs are built and available in a wide scope of segments and structure. These range from ExpertCenter D3 to D9, offering diverse configurability and meeting or surpassing a variety of world-leading reliability and environmental certifications. Encompassing every single industry, from education and creation, manufacturing to retail, ExpertCenter desktops are prepared to supply long, steady benefits with consistent performance, demonstrating unwavering quality and enterprise-grade manageability.

Extended asset lifecycles empowered by industry-leading ASUS motherboards, plus easy expandability for lower total cost of ownership (TCO) with an ASUS motherboard at the center of each ExpertCenter desktop, businesses are guaranteed of world-leading versatility and unwavering quality. These include the renowned 5X Protection III, a set of hardware safeguards that ensure long-term durability of ASUS motherboards. ExpertCenter desktops have also passed US military-grade durability standards and are also engineered for long-term reliability and quiet operation, even at full performance with multi-channel thermal solutions, customized fan profiles and power-efficient power supplies. The added advantage is that each ExpertCenter desktop PC is prepared both to boost efficiency and remains steady, indeed after several years of functioning. All these advantages along with a 3-year manufacturer warranty makes the product well suited for any organisation.

Based on performance and needs of an organization, the ExpertCenter desktop PCs have been grouped under three categories. First, specially designed for enterprise, organizational and governmental use: ExpertCenter D9 desktops feature effortless multitasking power and Intel vPro® processor technology to manage thousands of hardware endpoints. Secondly, specially designed for advanced SMBs: ExpertCenter D7 desktops maximize employee productivity with high computing and graphics performance, plus comprehensive connectivity to cope with diverse demands.

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