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Stronger Together: Industry Veterans Initiate Collaboration for Sustainable Tea Industry

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‘Stronger Together’ – a first of its kind initiative aimed at building collaboration among the Ceylon Plantation Community towards a more sustainable tea industry, was launched on March 17 at the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce. The project was introduced with a ceremonial auction and the launch of ‘Wisdom in the Leaf’ publication authored by tea industry veterans and eminent scientists, of which the MJF Charitable Foundation doubled all proceeds, amounting to Rs. 6.9 million, for the benefit of the plantation community.

Wisdom in the Lea

f is an evolution of ‘The History of Ceylon Tea’ project which began in August 2003 as part of Merrill J. Fernando’s commitment to making ‘business a matter of human service’. This service to the industry preserves its knowledge, enhances the appreciation of fine Ceylon tea and offers wisdom and context to future generations of tea planters. It has evolved into what is today the world’s largest free and online information resource on Ceylon tea. The book is a tribute to the generations of men and women who have made Ceylon tea possible; it pays homage to labourers, tea pickers, factory workers, field & factory officers, estate managers, scientists, visit agents, brokers and tea drinkers.

Present at the event were the authors and contributors of the publication, from tea industry veterans to eminent scientists, and members from The Tea Brokers Association, The Tea Exporters Association, The Planters Association, and Tea Companies. The publication was intended to coincide with Merrill J. Fernando’s commemoration of 70 years in tea last year, however, due to the pandemic, the formal launch was delayed to his 71st year, which on his suggestion, has now grown into a tribute to Ceylon Tea. Going beyond this tribute, the MJF Charitable Foundation has put forward a call to action through the ‘Stronger Together’ initiative.

Addressing the essence of wisdom contained in this book and how the ‘Stronger Together’ project will benefit the wider plantation community, Tea Grower and Dilmah CEO – Dilhan C. Fernando said,

“You cannot look into the future without understanding the past. As we look to the future as an industry, this is the MJF Foundation’s open invitation for collaboration towards a sustainable tea industry, because we have a shared future … The ‘Stronger Together’ project will enhance the industry and country’s capability connected with health and nutrition, livelihoods, education and climate change adaptation amongst others … the intention is to strengthen collaboration, to understand the changing socio-economic and environmental dynamics of our plantations and work together, so that we can confront the challenges of the future and build a sustainable industry.” Supporting these sentiments, Anselm Perera – Founder and Managing Director of MLESNA spoke on behalf of the Sri Lankan Tea Exporters, expressing that, “If we don’t go forward as one industry, we don’t have the strength … we should support each other … we should bring forward demands that are common to the trade.” On behalf of the Plantation Fraternity, Dr. Rohan Fernando – Executive Director of Plantations & Business Development, Aitken Spence Group shared the following words,

“My humble appeal to you – The [Tea] Brokers Association, The Tea Exporters Association, The Planters Association, and the [Tea] Companies here – all associated, not only with the tea industry, but the entire plantation industry… There is a lot that all of us can do together. We can take the Ceylon tea industry to the next level and grow together to ensure that the next 150 years of tea in this country will be right up there – second to none in the world. I think we all owe it to the industry.” The MJF Foundation was established by Dilmah Founder, Merrill J. Fernando in fulfilment of his pledge to make making business a matter of human service, it’s activity is evident today in the work done to offer dignified empowerment to less privileged children, youth, women and men, with a specific emphasis on vulnerable communities including children with disabilities – approximately Rs. 300 million is annually dedicated to support these communities. The ‘Stronger Together’ initiative is designed to amplify the current efforts across plantations to build a united and sustainable industry.

 

 



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HIP sees highest monthly RORO volume in April 

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The Hambantota International Port has seen a significant increase in their RORO figures during the first four months of 2021, compared to the corresponding period last year with 193,690 vehicles coming into the port for transshipment as against 118,872 vehicles during the same period last year, an HIP news release said.

April transshipments at 62,736 vehicles marked the highest volume of RORO the port has handled in a month so far.   The April figures have topped increased RORO volumes HIP experienced in December 2020 and January 2021, the release said.

The ports of loading of RORO cargo arriving for transshipment at HIP are Chennai, Mundra, Ennore in India and Gunsan and Pyeongtaek in South Korea while the main ports of discharge are Durban (SA), Veracruz (Mexico), San Antonio (US), Rotterdam (Netherlands) and Le Havere (France).

Some of the main shipping lines operating to and from HIP include NYK, MOL, Hyundai Glovis, Kline, ZIM, Hoegh, SEALS Japan, Eastern Car Carrier lines. 

“While globally the export market still seems to be fluctuating, it is encouraging to see the Hambantota International Port being selected as the port of choice by the major shipping lines, and the numbers keep growing. We attribute this primarily to the efficiency, reliability, and high productivity of our Port. This is coupled together with the focus on safety and quality as per the global standards of CMPort,” says Tissa Wickramasinghe, COO of Hambantota International Port Group (HIPG).

The port’s operations are carried out under strict COVID-19 regulations stipulated by the government and port authorities. 

 

 

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The Supply Chain is as strong as its weakest link: The business case for Sustainable Supply Chains and Ethical Sourcing

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The UN Global Compact Network Sri Lanka’s Working Group on Sustainable Supply Chain hosted its first webinar on April 29, 2021, titled “Transforming Supply Chain Sustainability through Ethical Sourcing”. This webinar brought together Supply Chain experts from Sri Lanka, Singapore and Spain, a news release connected to the event said.

The keynote address was given by the Chairman of Network Sri Lanka and CEO of Dilmah Tea, Dilhan C. Fernando. The esteemed panel members were Matt Kovac, Executive Director, Food Industry Asia (FIA – Singapore), Helena Orella Salinas, Sustainable Development Manager, Bolton Food (Spain), Sonali Peiris – Head of Sustainability, Enterprise Risk Management & Group Initiatives, John Keells Holdings (JKH). The Panel was moderated by Thamindri De Silva, General Manager, MJF Charitable Foundation and Steering Committee Member, UN Global Compact Network Sri Lanka 

The release added:

“This session highlighted the importance of incorporating ethical sourcing practices into the sustainability of the supply chains in today’s fast-paced and dynamic business world. While the business case for making a shift is sound, it is imperative that companies create long-term strategies to incorporate environmental, social and corporate governance as a means of generating profit and holding themselves accountable for people and planet.

“Ethical sourcing symbolises company-wide efforts to meet industry standards and conforming with regulations, that should be considered as an opportunity to generate profit rather than a business expense. Consumers have become sensitised to the impact products have on the environment and human rights. Therefore, it is critical that companies create key partnerships with NGOs and international standard setting bodies to hold their company accountable and ensure their resources are sourced in a safe and sustainable manner.

“Technology plays an important role as it promotes transparency in the supply chain. As supply chains evolve over time and are exposed to external shocks, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, technology enables companies to use programmes that can access supplier frameworks remotely and provide assistance when necessary.

“As the Chairman of Network Sri Lanka and CEO of Dilmah Tea, Dilhan C. Fernando said, “Human actions have produced a situation that needs to change for the sake of future generations” pushing companies to make the shift towards ethical sourcing in their supply chains and leading to sustainability as a business strategy.”

The UN Global Compact is a special initiative of the UN Secretary-General, the Global Compact is a call to companies everywhere to align their operations and strategies with Ten Principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption. 

The Webinar can be viewed on YouTube: https://youtu.be/nHAep-d7Wgc

For more information, please follow @globalcompactnetworksrilanka on social media and visit our website at ungcsl.org

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SLT Group Revenue recorded at Rs. 24.7 Bn in Q1 2021, Net Profit improved by 14%

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Sri Lanka Telecom PLC (SLT) Group released its financial results for the first quarter of 2021, with a remarkable 14.3% year-on-year growth in Profit After Tax (PAT) to Rs. 2.1 Bn.

The Group revenue went up to Rs. 24.7 Bn for the period with a 11.4% year-on-year growth, strongly underpinned by the growth in revenues of FTTH, 4G LTE, mobile broadband services, PEOTV services and carrier domestic services. International voice revenue reflected a de-growth while international revenues from global transit and global data soared compared to the same period last year.

The EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Tax, Depreciation and Amortisation) of the Group improved to Rs. 9.7 Bn, a 13.6% year-on-year growth, lifting the EBITDA margin up to 39.4% from 38.6% in the same period last year. The surge in revenue largely contributed to the EBITDA growth. The growing capital expenditure in order to align with the global technological trends pushed the Depreciation and Amortisation of the Group up to Rs. 6.3 Bn, a 18.0% year-on-year increase.

The Operating Profit of the Group stood at Rs. 3.4 Bn, reflecting a 6.3% year-on-year growth resulting from the increase in Group EBITDA which was partly offset by the elevated Depreciation and Amortisation for the period. Interest expenses and finance cost charged to the Profit or Loss Statement increased to Rs. 0.8 Bn for the period under review while the FOREX losses declined to Rs. 0.3 Bn. The Profit Before Tax (PBT) rose to Rs. 2.8 Bn, up by 9.3% over the same period last year.

The growth in EBITDA coupled with the effective collection strategies of the Group almost tripled the Operating Cash Flow of the Group to Rs. 12.2 Bn for the period under review. Further, the Group managed to reduce the Long-Term Borrowings to Rs. 44.9 Bn as at the reporting date.

The holding company of the Group recorded an impressive 13.5% increase in revenue over the same period last year reaching Rs. 14.2 Bn. The PAT of the company went up to Rs. 1.4 Bn, reflecting a 16.2% year-on-year growth.

The mobile arm of the SLT Group, Mobitel (Pvt) Ltd too improved revenue for the quarter by 8.1% year-on-year to Rs. 11.6 Bn. The PAT of Mobitel soared during the period to Rs. 1.5 Bn which is a 65.4% year-on-year growth resulting from the increased revenue and the effective cost management measures.

The Group paid a total amount of Rs. 3.7 Bn as direct and indirect taxes including levies to the Government in the first quarter of 2021.

SLT Group Chairman, Mr. Rohan Fernando announced:

“I am extremely proud of my management team and my staff for delivering yet another solid quarter. Our business continued to accelerate in the first quarter with a double-digit growth in revenues and profits and with a robust operating cash flow. Consolidation of our Group Sales and Marketing under the SLT-MOBITEL unified branding contributed immensely in achieving the success we report in the first quarter. While uncertainty related to Covid-19 remains, we will stay focused on driving growth, building on favourable market trends, improving operational performance and delivering value for all our stakeholders.”

SLT Group Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Lalith Seneviratne remarked:

“Our first quarter financial performance represents a promising start to the year 2021. We commenced the year 2021 with the brand unification of SLT-MOBITEL which is another milestone in SLT Group’s legacy. The strategic journey of the SLT Group towards digital transformation has proven imperative with the present pandemic situation which has also demonstrated the critical role technology plays in everyday life. The Group remains resilient amidst the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic owing to our robust business execution coupled with our attractive product portfolio.”

SLT Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Kiththi Perera stated:

“We are successfully progressing with our accelerated fibre expansion programme with an aim to provide ultra-speed Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) connections across the country. This year is pivotal to SLT since in mid-2021, SLT together with its mobile arm Mobitel aims at expanding and upgrading the present 4G network in view of providing an enhanced broadband experience and also to launch a pre-commercial 5G service using 3.5 GHz. In addition, SLT plans to invest in expanding its global network including the upcoming SEA-ME-WE 06 submarine cable system to connect to the world at the speed of Terra Bits per second. The domestic and global network expansions will be complimented by multiple digital initiatives in our efforts to continually improve customer experience and service levels.”

SLT Chief Operating Officer, Mr. Priyantha Fernandez commented:

“During this Covid-19 pandemic situation, SLT has provided an uninterrupted service to the nation and offered innovative yet affordable data packages to facilitate the shift towards work-from-home and study-from-home arrangements. Further, SLT in collaboration with Cisco and Millennium I.T.E.S.P. (Pvt) Ltd launched its new managed SD-WAN services to accelerate digitisation of enterprise and government customers in Sri Lanka. In addition, SLT-MOBITEL extended the PEO TV Go services to our mobile customers too to enjoy their favourite TV programmes.”

Mobitel Acting Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Chandika Vitharana added:

“As the world continues to go through a challenging era due to the ongoing pandemic, SLT-MOBITEL which provides an indispensable and critical service under the prevailing conditions was able to create value to all its stakeholders. As the National Mobile Service Provider, Mobitel, the mobile arm of the SLT Group is aggressively expanding the network to rural areas to ensure no one is left behind in these difficult and challenging times. Many initiatives were carried out during this period to make Broadband accessible to all. Affordable bundle device offers to help increase smartphone penetration, attractive application-based data plans, mobile and home broadband plans to facilitate work-from-home and learn-from-home conditions are a few of the initiatives devised to make Broadband affordable and accessible to all segments of the society according to their needs. While making broadband available to all, SLT-MOBITEL is committed to providing uninterrupted connectivity to the nation during these turbulent times.”

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