December 15th is International Tea Day. Started in 2005 by a group of trade unions and international organisations, ITD is an occasion to celebrate the successes of the global tea trade, and an opportunity for small tea growers to make their collective voice heard.
Ever since the East India Company began importing Chinese tea to the UK in the 17th century, power in tea supply chains has been concentrated with the importers, dealers and retailers. This means that the growers and workers who provide much of the labour are prevented from getting a fair share of the profits.
As such, tea has always been a huge part of what Traidcraft does. In 1980, we pioneered the first fair trade tea to be sold in the UK, and we have continued – through the purchasing practices of Traidcraft plc as well as our development projects – to work for fairer tea supply chains around the world.
We are delighted that small tea growers are using International Tea Day to strengthen their collective identity and to lobby national governments for policies that support the challenges and needs of the tea sector.
The International Tea Day’s stated aims are as follows:
- Affirming the rights of plantation workers and small growers
- Building awareness and responsiveness among all the concerned bodies
- Identifying responsible policy decisions
- Strengthening advocacy and campaigns
- Facilitating tea consumption and a ‘just’ trade in tea
ITD was started with the input of small growers and workers from 12 producer countries. This includes India, where some of the most eye-catching activism is taking place.
The Confederation of Indian Small Tea Growers Associations in India (CISTA) is a representative body of increasing importance: farmers with fewer than two acres produced nearly 35% of India’s tea this year. CISTA has marked ITD by publishing a statement sent to the Indian government.
This calls on both Central and State governments to recognise the contribution of small tea growers to the Indian economy with a list of measures aimed at supporting fair prices, providing crop insurance and encouraging collectives.
These are interventions that Traidcraft supports. Indeed, we have been working with CISTA, as well as our long-term partners Centre for Education and Communication to support small tea growers to form into stronger producer groups through our EqualiTea project – something that George Williams has blogged about for us before.
We hope that you enjoy International Tea Day with a cup of your favourite (Fairtrade!) tea. Find out more about ITD here.