With 3 billion cups consumed globally each day, tea is the world’s second most popular beverage after water.
Tea production employs 13 million people, 9 million of whom are smallholder farmers, primarily from Asia and Africa. A significant amount of tea is consumed in domestic markets, with several factors influencing the demand for this popular beverage. They include price, age, education, occupation and the cultural background of the consumer. Increased interest in natural products and flavoured tea has continued to rise, which also impacts tea consumption trends.
While tea production and consumption are both projected to rise, the industry is facing critical sustainability challenges. The tea plant is highly sensitive to changes in the environment, and floods and droughts are affecting yields, quality and prices. Other issues like forced and child labour, poor tea plantation working conditions, and pesticide use and residues are threatening the tea sector and the rural livelihoods that depend on it.
Voluntary sustainability standards (VSSs) in the tea sector are working to address these issues, while also fostering climate resilience, preventing soil erosion and increasing profitability for smallholders. For VSSs to be effective in the tea sector, their interventions must lead to addressing sustainability issues and poverty alleviation.
Can VSSs help to empower producers, restore natural environments, enable resilient value chains and provide consumers with sustainably grown options? We will explore these issues further in our tea report, to be launched in the second half of 2019.