Food agency calls for more sustainability in the tea sector

At the recent commemoration of International Tea Day, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) called for greater sustainability of the tea sector in times of COVID-19 and beyond. The agency said global demand for tea had seen a remarkable increase during the COVID-19 pandemic. The rising demand is providing new momentum to build a sustainable and resilient tea sector. "Celebrating tea is celebrating peace, culture and hope," said FAO Director-General QU Dongyu. "Tea can play an important role in our journey to build back better. Being the most widely consumed drink in the world after water, tea brings people together to share stories and ways of life."Despite the critical role tea plays in ensuring rural incomes, livelihoods and food security, the sector faces several challenges. For example, FAO said tea grows only in narrowly defined agro-ecological conditions. Therefore, the impact of climate change and extreme weather events is one of the most pressing issues that require urgent attention. Other significant stressors for the tea sector include increasing competitiveness in the beverage sector and declining returns for small-scale farmers. 

In addition, the global trade of tea in 2020 was affected by logistics issues and measures imposed to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. However, increasing in-home consumption of tea more than offset declining out-of-home consumption in many instances. During the first weeks of lockdown in several countries, in-home tea sales surged, increasing by 75% in some consuming countries. 

FAO’s Director-General reflected on the need to balance growth and sustainability at all the tea value chain stages. To achieve this, he called for greater sustainability through strategies for climate change adaptation and mitigation, enhanced market transparency and sustainability. He also stressed the importance of policies for sustainable production that target smallholder growers. (Image from Unsplash)

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