Sustainable use of biological resourcesTea farms

Support for acquisition of Rainforest Alliance Certification

Since 2013, the Kirin Group has supported the acquisition of Rainforest Alliance certification by tea farms in Sri Lanka. As of end of 2021, we had supported the acquisition of certification at a total of 94 tea farms in Sri Lanka, equivalent to approximately 30% of all certified large estates, and in August 2021, we also began sales of year-round products that use tea leaves from certified tea farms.

Kirin’s high level of dependence on Sri Lanka for tea leaves

Since its launch, we have used tea leaves from Sri Lanka as the main ingredient for Kirin Gogo-no-Kocha, Japan's leading brand of black tea brand with a share of approximately 50%*1 of the domestic packaged black tea market. When we conducted a biodiversity risk assessment in 2011, we learned that approximately 25%*2 of the Sri Lankan tea leaves imported by Japan were used for Kirin Gogo-no-Kocha. We also considered purchasing tea leaves from certified farms to reduce risk from our high level of dependency. But at the time, Sri Lanka was in the immediate aftermath of a civil war and we found the number of farms that were able to access training themselves was limited. Therefore, rather than leaving behind such farms, we decided to create a positive impact on the sustainability of the production area as a whole by supporting the acquisition of certification by tea farms in Sri Lanka in order to build better partnerships with production areas and the people who work there and to continue producing tasty and reliable tea drinks.

  1. Actual data for 2021 based on research conducted by Food Marketing Research
    Institute Co., Ltd.
  2. Source: 2011 Tea Statistics, Japan Tea Association
  3. Certification is awarded to farms that meet comprehensive standards for
    sustainable agriculture to create a better future for people and nature.

Training content

Rainforest Alliance certification program is made up of three principal pillars of sustainability: “environment,” “society,” and “economy.”
In terms of “environment,” we provide guidance to tea farms on matters such as forest conservation, surveys and protection of wildlife, trash sorting, and recycling.
In terms of “society,” items related to human rights are subject to examination, such as the improvement of working conditions and living environments for tea pickers. Certified farms make efforts to improve the lives of farm workers, including by creating clinics on farms and providing homes for tea pickers.

In terms of “economy,” we also provide training related to agricultural technology itself. Farmers in developing countries generally face problems such as poor agricultural knowledge and skills, and excessive use of pesticides and fertilizers.
We not only protect forests, but also reduce spending, improve farm profits, and enhance tea leaf safety by teaching scientific methods of increasing yields while reducing agricultural chemical and fertilizer use in our training.
Droughts and heavy rains are frequent in Sri Lanka due to the impact of climate change. Urbanization, industrialization, soil erosion and outflow as a result of inappropriate agriculture are also major problems. Tea farms are often located on steep, sunny slopes, so heavy rainfall not only causes the loss of fertile soil, but there have also been examples of it causing landslides that kill people living on the farms. In training, we teach people how to identify grasses that have a negative effect on tea cultivation and show them how to ensure the ground in tea farms is covered with harmless grasses with deep roots.
This prevents landslides by stopping rain from directly hitting the ground during heavy rain, while also serving to retain water during droughts, making it an effective measure for adapting to climate change.

  • *Product photos are as of the end of June 2022

  1. The target for small farms was a cumulative total of 5,350 farms between 2022 and 2024, but in 2021, it was difficult for trainers to visit farms owing to strict curfews, etc., as a result of the spread of COVID-19, and we were not able to provide training at small farms.

Social and economic impact of certification

The figure below shows an evidence social impact at a farm in Sri Lanka that has acquired Rainforest Alliance Certification. This data is from a specific farm, and from it, we may say that our support for certification has a positive impact, both financially and socially, on farms and farm workers, and makes areas where raw materials are produced more sustainable.
In an effort to achieve greater sustainability, some farms are utilizing some of the training expenses that Kirin provides to conduct research to significantly increase yields and attempt pesticide-free cultivation, as part of measures that go beyond the standards for certification.

Support for the acquisition of certification by small farms

In 2018, we began supporting the acquisition of certification by small farms, and by 2025, we plan to support the acquisition of certification by 10,000 small farms.
In Sri Lanka there are many small family-operated farms, with the total number said to be in the hundreds of thousands. Nationally qualified collectors collect the tea leaves that small farms produce, and sell them to large nearby farms for processing before shipping. Tea leaves from small farms can sometimes account for as much as half or more of the tea leaves processed in the large farms’ plants. We thus determined the acquisition of certification at small tea farms is also necessary for the sustainability of black tea leaves.
In order to obtain certification for small farms, multiple small farms are organized to form a team and appoint a leader. Local trainers first train the leaders, who then train the team’s small farms, thus ensuring that they learn about the requirements of the certification standard.
In many cases, we are able to obtain the full cooperation of large farms, including the dispatch of instructors and the opening of training rooms. Since it is necessary, however, to begin by organizing the small farms into a team, it often takes time to start actual training, and the process to obtain certification is perhaps more difficult than the process for large farms.

  • *All of the above information is as of the end of June 2022.