Lalin I De Silva receives his award from Speaker Karu Jayasooriya presented by CPS in recognition for his forthright straight- forward articles to save the Plantation Industry. Navaratnam looks on

The 79th Annual General Meeting of the Ceylon Planters Society was held at the Water’s Edge on September 26, 2015 under the patronage of Speaker of the Parliament, Karu Jayasooriya, who graced the occasion as chief guest.

Plantation crisis
Speaking at the AGM, the outgoing president Suresh Navaratnam said that we are indeed aware that Tea and Rubber are in a deep crisis, and all are aware of the reasons that have led to the crisis. Some better-managed companies despite financial constraints continue and maintain basic agricultural practices is commendable, but sadly few companies have ruined these assets to a virtual point of  no-return, and the entire industry knows who they are. He requested Ministers Navin Dissanayake and Kabir Hashim to intervene, and prevent further erosion of the plantations by a few companies.

New market strategy
Speaker Karu Jayasooriya, addressing the gathering, said that the plantation sector was the main backbone of our economy sometime back and the foreign exchange earner, employing the largest workforce in the Island and made substantial contributions towards government revenue, and should now focus on newly- emerging global markets  such as Iraq and European markets.

He said that Sri Lanka needed to move away from low productivity, and his attention has been drawn to certain issues of the members of the society and the major burning issue of the retiring age of planters. He further said that he is aware of the Ceylon Planters Society has a proud history of championing cause of the planting community in this country, and there is no doubt that the planters with their experience, intelligence and innovative skill will meet the future with confidence and assure an era of higher productivity and Sri Lanka looks upon the planters to give of their best and they will be blessed with good leadership.

Challenge status quo
The chairman Pro.tem Dr. Dan Seevaratnam said that any progressive government, organization, company or family needs to continuously challenge status quo.  He said all of us have been talking about a ‘plantation industry’ and asked on ‘what business we are in’? A business is defined by its competitors and who are the competitors? Coffee, colas, soft drinks, milk, water and all these are beverages. If it is acknowledge that tea is competing with beverages then we cannot deny the fact that we are in the beverage marketing business, and not in the business of managing plantations unless and until the tea industry identified itself as a beverage marketing business it will always beset with the challenge of shrinking margins that will eventually make the industry unviable.

Tagets US$ 10 bn. by 2020
Ajantha Moonemalle, president-elect, said he would work with stakeholders towards an annual revenue of US$ 10 billion to the national economy by 2020 from the industry. He proposed a fresh start with end in mind which is a sure fire strategy.

Moonamalle also thanks chairman pro-tem Dr. Dan Seevaratnam, and said that Dr. Seevaratnam has already demonstrated how Human Resources Management (HRM) concepts could help turnaround management of plantations of Sri Lanka, at a time when some have confined this knowledge merely to a ‘lip service’. The author is the former editor, Ceylon Planters’ Society-Bulletin