Across Turkey, some 200,000 people rely on tea production as their source of income. Unfortunately, climate change, poor agricultural practices and a misuse of fertilisers are threatening the future of the Turkish tea industry. Lipton is working to protect the local industry with the Sustainable Tea Agriculture Project—an initiative launched in 2011 to introduce Rainforest Alliance certification to Turkish tea farmers and make social, environmental and economic responsibility an integral part of local production.
To date, more than 15,000 Turkish producers have received training on sustainable agriculture applications, erosion control, waste management, work safety, record keeping, natural habitat conservation, and fertiliser use and pruning through the program. Lipton’s local tea-producing factory, Pazar, has also earned Rainforest Alliance certification, and Turkish consumers can now find Lipton tea with the green frog seal on grocery shelves. (Lipton aims to achieve Rainforest Alliance certification for all of its Turkish tea products by the end of 2018.)
At a January 2013 press conference announcing the launch of Lipton tea in the Turkish consumer market, Mustafa Seçkin, Unilever Turkey Foods Marketing Vice President said:
Tea is not an ordinary plant; it constitutes the economy or even the social culture of a region. Therefore, the Lipton Sustainable Tea Agriculture Project is almost a mass regional development project. Through Rainforest Alliance certification, Lipton tea is protecting the tea industry on behalf of its consumer and is providing the region with environmental, economic and social benefits. The consumer then supports this project with each Lipton he/she puts into the basket from the shelves.
The use of chemical fertilizers is one of the most significant issues plaguing the Turkish tea industry, and a focal point of Lipton’s training with farmers seeking Rainforest Alliance certification. In cooperation with the regional Chambers of Agriculture and the Eastern Black Sea Development Agency (DOKA), Lipton established a soil analysis laboratory in Rize’s district of Pazar. The tea producers who received a soil analysis and follow-up training on fertilizer use have achieved savings of 0.5 million Turkish Lira ($275, 561) so far. That number should increase by approximately 3 million Turkish Lira ($1.65 million) by the end of the project.
Enhancing farm management—a critical part of the standards required for Rainforest Alliance certification—has been another instrumental aspect of the Sustainable Tea Agriculture Project. The introduction of an electronic database program that provides producers with a modern, fast and error-free record keeping and audit system has made a significant contribution to improving local farm management.
While rolling out its training program to farmers across the Eastern Black Sea region (a temperate rainforest zone), Lipton has also worked to implement projects that benefit the local community. One important initiative: providing a breast and cervical cancer scanning service through the Cancer Early Diagnosis, Screening, and Training Centre (KETEM).