Director-General  QU Dongyu
A statement by FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu


Thursday, 21 May 2020

Statement by
FAO Director-General, QU Dongyu



Dear colleagues and friends, tea lovers

I am very pleased to address you at this first International Tea Day celebration for the first and foremost. Thank you all for being with us today. As you are aware that due to the time difference, the celebration in Asia has finished this morning, in China, Korea, Japan and Indonesia and other (countries).

In China, the president Mr. Xi Jinping made a special congratulation speech to the opening ceremony on video conference. It was a special honour for us and also made this first International Tea Day celebration special. Many other countries are more and more involved and today I recognized there are so many excellencies and ambassadors who are willing to make their schedule available and other people from other parts of the world.

Last December, the world recognized the importance of tea through a United Nations resolution that dedicated the 21st of May as International Tea Day.

The resolution also paid tribute to the sector’s socio-economic relevance and its contribution to achieving the 2030 Agenda.

It also specifies that tea production and processing constitutes a main source of livelihoods for millions of families in developing countries especially in remote and economically disadvantaged areas.

Most tea grows in mountainous and hilly areas, so that area is normally not so easily accessible for other agriculture resources.

The tea industry is a main source of income and export revenue for some of the poorest countries and vulnerable regions and even remote areas in the world.

The tea production and processing contribute to the fight against hunger, the reduction of extreme poverty, the empowerment of women and the sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems in a friendly and sustainable way.

And smallholders are responsible for 60 percent of the global production of tea.

Being one of the most important cash crops, tea also plays a significant role in rural development and food security in developing countries.

All of these points in addition to the historical and cultural dimension of tea as well as its health and wellness benefits highlight just how important tea is globally.

Today is a celebration of tea farmers, their achievements and the tea sector as a whole. From the grower, processer, commercial business to the tea house, tea culture and the whole value chain, production chain and supply chain. So we are not only appreciating the tea growers. We show appreciation to the tea and enjoy tea and beyond tea.

But today is also a perfect occasion to reflect on the challenges that lie ahead.

The tea sector needs to find a balance between the requirements of growth and ensuring sustainability at all stages of the value chain.

This is not an easy task, but it is not an impossible one either.

For FAO, sustainability builds on three equally important components:

  • inclusive economic growth,
  • social progress, and
  • environmental protection.

Tea can make a significant contribution to all three pillars of sustainability.

But achieving sustainability requires that we do things differently and explore novel ideas.

We need better policies, more innovation, increased investments and greater inclusiveness.

FAO’s work on tea is guided by the objective of building a dynamic, productive and resilient tea sector.

Our activities include the provision of:

  • knowledge products,
  • data and information,
  • projections and outlooks for the world tea market, and
  • policy studies and analysis of the sector.

We also promote dialogue and the exchange of experiences.

The FAO Intergovernmental Group on Tea, one of FAO’s oldest commodity groups, leads the multilateral action related to the world tea economy.

Personally, I have hosted two Intergovernmental Group, first one in 2008, and then the second one in 2018. Both of the Intergovernmental Group meetings were in China. So I do have a close feeling to tea, the Intergovernmental Tea Group and tea sector.

As Yasmina said, tea is a part of the culture and it’s a way of life, for the people in Asia and the Middle East. And also I know that the Muslim community really loves the tea and they add a lot of sugar, spices and dates, Arabic date and sometimes sesame too.  It’s a natural beverage prepared by the family from one generation to another.

This group contributed substantially to the establishment of the International Tea Day. the intergovernmental group is really one of the major promoters together with suggestions from member countries, such as China, India and others.

Yesterday we celebrated the World Bee Day. It’s a way to get the public awareness for the commodities that FAO is fully engaged with.

Dear colleagues and friends,

As the world economy enters a recession and incomes decline as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is crucial to preserve the livelihoods of people, especially smallholder farmers and labour-intensive agriculture.

Tea, as a source of employment and revenue, can help alleviate some of the hardships resulting from the current economic downturn.

So today is also an excellent occasion for forging partnerships and concrete projects for the further experimental development of the sector.

And also we can create a new business model, because now we can share tea with all tea-lovers across the border by e-commerce because tea is a dry product so it’s suitable for e-commerce for long-distance transportation and also you can add local flavours with herbs or spices.  We can make so many local formulas of tea.

I wish through this celebration, we can really create new business models and new opportunities for the farmers, processors, businessmen and for the tea culture promoters.

Because only by working together we can “harness benefits for all from field to cup”, which is the theme of this year’s celebration.

So tea is not only a cup of water with tea. It is also a melted culture with tea, with  different flavours of tea.

We want to create a more inclusive and harmonized environment for tea culture and also build a more dynamic and harmonized world.

I wish you a happy and healthy International Tea Day, and please do enjoy a cup of tea, not just for the tea break! It also calms down your soul and your sprits and builds up a healthy life.

Thank you.