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Once again, the Sri Lanka tea industry made remarkable in-roads to the world’s largest tea consuming market, China with a spectacular performance few days ago in the global Selenium capital of Enshi at Hubei Province. The platform was the International Tea Forum supplemented by an artistic Tea Exhibition to portray the wide range of different Chinese teas attended by a large gathering of overseas tea experts and specialist as well as the reputed Chinese tea companies. The formidable strength of Ceylon Tea powered by the auction system was clearly reiterated to the global leaders of Green Tea where the participants expressed astonishment but keen interest to support the mechanism. The Ceylon Tea Charity Auction conducted for the first time in the ancient Selenium capital of Enshi in Hubei Province, provided the tea crazy Chinese fans to witness another rare, hotly contested bidding process. This was the third such tea auction concluded by Sri Lanka in “the birth country of tea” within a short span of just three months. The hype and excitement created by this unique opportunity was considered as an  excellent promotional tool for Ceylon Tea for further penetration into the large middle class society of China, always looking for novelty and innovations. The auction system has never been experimented for tea in China although antiques, jewellery, flowers etc are popularly sold through such mechanisms.

The  success of the combination of three Ps’ - Public/Private/Peoples approach was clearly ratified again through this collaboration in the tea industry of Sri Lanka. The apex state organization responsible for the tea industry in the island, Sri Lanka Tea Board in partnership with the private sector umbrella body for the industry, Colombo Tea Traders Association and the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Beijing joined hands with the China Chamber of Commerce for Foodstuffs, Native Produce & Animal By-Products (CCCFNA) to organize this historic Ceylon Tea Charity Auction. It was indeed the cordial rapport and friendly dialogue cultivated by the Sri Lanka tea industry diplomats and experts with the Chinese counterparts which paved the way to organize a public forum to boost a foreign Black Tea origin in a nation where Green Tea is officially declared as the “National Drink”. The name of the game was complimenting Chinese green tea with Ceylon Black Tea to give the end user more variety where consumers are eager to try out new product innovations.

A communication strategy was formulated in advance, jointly by Sri Lanka Tea Board (SLTB) and Colombo Tea Traders Association (CTTA) to convey the conducting of a Ceylon Tea Charity Auction which was scheduled immediately after the ceremonial opening of the International Tea Conference at Hubei Province. The Pre-Auction notice was designed by the CTTA in the format of a digital catalogue and circulated to the membership of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce through the organizing committee and also to the Chinese Tea Industry Stake Holders through the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Beijing a week prior to the event. The pre-publicity program had highlighted the agro-climatic growing regions and emphasized on the award winning single estates of Sri Lanka including the specialty orthodox black teas from the island nation and Ceylon Green Teas.

During the day of the actual event, all the teas lined up for auctioning was displayed in the Auction Room with the opportunity to taste/liquor by an appreciative audience including the Chinese Media. The two Deputies Governors of Enshi Province patronized the auction as the Guests of Honour. A specially printed catalogue, very professionally designed by the CTTA was distributed to the enthusiastic crowd just before the charity auction commenced. The event began with a brief introduction by the Master of Ceremonies, the role taken over by Hasitha De Alwis, Director (Promotion) MENA Region of the SLTB immediately followed by a PowerPoint presentation from Anil Cooke, President of Asia Siyaka Commodities PLC. The presentation was related to the auction system, its absolute transparency, fast turnaround of crop to cash and the mechanism still believed to be the most effective by the stake-holders of the Sri Lanka tea industry. Despite discovering tea, China acknowledged the fact, that they are yet to experiment with the auction system.

Sri Lanka Tea Industry which celebrated the 150 years anniversary in the island nation with a mega program recently, elevated the awareness of the Orthodox Ceylon Black Tea Grades and Agro-climatic Regions among the Chinese society to a new level with the tea auction performed in Hubei Province. Fourteen (14) of the winning teas at the Ceylon Specialty Estate Tea of the Year Competition completed in Beijing few months ago were selected to be auctioned again in Enshi. Five (05) kilos each of the winning teas were sold at the Charity Auction, mainly to the Chinese audience at an exciting bidding contest which was keenly contested to a packed gathering. For the first time in the history, four (04) Chinese Teas of 500 gms each was also auctioned along with the Ceylon Teas as a symbol of the friendship between the tea industries of the two countries. It has been acknowledged by political leaders of both nations, that  Sri Lanka’s trade with China goes back as far as 3,000 years due to the ancient Maritime Silk Route. The “One Belt – One Road” Initiative advocated by China is consistent with the Sri Lanka’s policy on the “Strategic Cooperation Partnership” between the two countries. The geographic location of the island is also ideally placed to operate as a hub in the Indian Ocean and compliment the Chinese “Belt and Road” strategy.

An amount of RMB 50,000 (Rs. 1.1 Million) was raised at the historic charity auction for Ceylon Tea in the famous global Selenium capital of Enshi (Hubei Province).

Every lot was 05 kilos each and the teas were physically available for delivery over the counter. A noteworthy scenario was the purchase of Bandaraeliya Garden Mark of Dambatenne Tea Factory in the Uva Region by USA Tea Association at a price of RMB 5,000 as a felicitation to Sir Thomas Lipton who owned the tea estate in the colonial era. The Ceylon Tea and Chinese Tea Auction was conducted by Mr. Anil Cooke from Sri Lanka and Mr. Ling Feng (Alan) from China, a formidable combination who kept the audience on their toes. While Mr. Cooke has conducted similar auctions for Ceylon Teas in USA, Japan, Russia, Dubai and Beijing on previous occasions, Mr. Alan is the first Chinese licensed auctioneer in foreign auction company. The revenue of approx. SL Rs. 1.1 Million raised through the Charity auction will be utilized for a welfare project for the benefit of the Children of Sri Lanka tea plantation workers/labourers. It would be administered by Colombo Teas Traders Association in consultation with the Sri Lanka Teas Board.

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