Sustainable use of biological resourcesTea farms
Support for acquisition of Rainforest Alliance Certification
In 2013, the Kirin Group began supporting the acquisition of Rainforest Alliance Certification by tea farms in Sri Lanka. By the end of 2020, a total of 93 farms had obtained certification thanks to this support, equivalent to approximately 30% of all certified large tea farms in Sri Lanka. In one year, we sell approximately 1.17 billion bottles*1 of Kirin Gogo-no-Kocha, making this Japan’s leading black tea brand with a share of approximately 50%*2 of the packaged black tea market. We have made this tea with tea leaves from Sri Lankan tea farms as an ingredient since its launch 35 years ago. When we conducted a biodiversity risk assessment in 2011, we learned that approximately 25%*3 of the Sri Lankan tea leaves imported by Japan were used for Kirin Gogo-no-Kocha. In order to build better partnerships with the areas where tea is produced and the people who work there, and to continue producing tasty and safe tea drinks, we continue to support Sri Lanka, a country that we are highly dependent on for ingredients.
- Actual data for 2020
- Actual data for 2020 based on research conducted by Food Marketing Research Institute Co., Ltd.
- Source: 2011 Tea Statistics, Japan Tea Association
- Certification is awarded to farms that meet comprehensive standards for sustainable agriculture to create for a better future for people and nature.
Products using certified tea leaves
On August 3, 2021, we began year-round sales of Kirin Gogo-no-Kocha 250ml LL Slim in paper cartons labeled with Rainforest Alliance certification seal that the product is made from more than 90% of certified tea leaves in Sri Lanka.
Rainforest Alliance certification program is made up of three principal pillars of sustainability: “environment,” “society,” and “economy”.
In terms of “environment,” tea farms learn how to conserve forests and natural resources by using land, water, and energy carefully.
For “society,” human rights must be respected on certified farms. Farmers receive training which addresses issues such as child and forced labor, gender equality, discrimination, workplace violence and harassment. They are also required to provide decent housing for workers, and access to sanitation and healthcare for better and safer places to live and work.In terms of “economy,” farmers use agricultural practices that help improve crop yields and reduce costs. Farmers in developing countries tend to use more agricultural chemicals and fertilizers than necessary, and while this is not the case in Sri Lanka, if agricultural yields do not increase, precious forests are sometimes lost as a result of burning neighboring forests to create new farmland. Training teaches scientific methods to increase yields while reducing the use of pesticides and fertilizers, not only to protect forests, but also to increase farm profits by reducing expenditures and to improve tea leaf safety.
In recent years, Sri Lanka has experienced frequent droughts and heavy rains presumably due to the impact of climate change. 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. Therefore, the training teaches farms how to distinguish between grass that is good and bad for tea trees, and instructs tea farms to ensure that the ground in the farm is covered only in good grass with deep roots. This prevents landslides by preventing 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.
In 2020, the spread of COVID-19 also led to strict curfew requirements in Sri Lanka. As a result, trainers had a period of three months or so in which they were able to visit farms to provide training for farms to obtain certification, but we are continuing our efforts in this area, while taking sufficient measures to prevent infection.
Social and economic impact of certification
The figure below shows the estimated 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 using 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 the end of 2020, 120 farms had obtained certification. In 2020, we conducted training for approximately 2,000 small farms, despite the impact of the spread of COVID-19. 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.
In order to obtain certification for small farms, multiple small farms are organized to form a team and determine a leader. Local trainers first train the leaders, who then train the team’s farms, thus ensuring that the small farms learn and acquire an understanding of the farm requirements of the Sustainable Agriculture Standard. For large farms also, the acquisition of certification by small farms will contribute to increasing the amount of certified tea leaves they process and ship at their own plants. As a result, 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.