Friday, 2 May 2014

Climate Change Affecting Tea

Climate change is not something of future science fiction novels or a debate between politicians arguing about finding an acceptable level of CO2 in industrial world. The reality of what climate change means to a person did not come clear until the past six months when unpredictable weather patterns hit areas of the world to extreme weather conditions. Can you imagine snow storms in the United States where there has been no snowfalls or the extensive flooding in the United Kingdom?

Not only did the weather impact lives and displacement but also major agricultural land. In the short term this may seem of little impact. But in the not so far distant the lost of food producing resources will impact on food availability and prices.

This also affected the tea growing regions of the world, as this recent and sudden shift of increased temperatures with major drought conditions have seen production fall as much as 70% in the Assam region of India. With the increasing demand on the resurgence of this once tea toddler nation this can only mean limited supplies and an increase of prices. It is the simple theory of law of supply and demand. Would this mean once again that tea becomes he commodity of the rich, as tea was in the 17th century?

What is of concern to me personally are the lives of the tea workers that would be displaced. The tea worker is the backbone of the tea industry where mechanization is not used. In fact it is the delicate hand of the woman picker who can 10 kg a day but with little work there will be increased poverty. There has also been in the media that the wages are already low and some of the daughters of the tea workers are sold into slavery and prostitution.

As a consumer we need to ensure that the words fair trade on the box means accountability to those who give us that drink. The Ethical Tea Partnership which certifies Twinings and Tetley state they are powerless to set wages but if corporations demand better conditions or no business than change can happen. Without a leader in the tea industry there will be more abuse and if we, the consumer ignore the reality then we are silent partners in the slave trade.

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