After water, tea is the world’s most popular beverage, with over 3 billion cups being drank every single day. In the last two decades, alone, tea consumption has increased 60% as reported by StopTheTraffik in 2016. The most popular tea-growing nations include China, India, Kenya, and Sri Lanka and they all have one thing in common: large instances of human trafficking. But these countries are not alone. More than 120 tea-producing countries have been implicated in the illegal trafficking, into which 7 million new victims are forced each year.
Why is this different than other trafficked goods?
As with any product, the tea supply chain is intricate and hard to navigate. Simply, the five main steps are: growing, processing, auctioning, blending and packaging, and finally the retail marketplace. One of the interesting aspects of the tea industry is that human trafficking has no implications in any of the stages of the supply chain except the very first one: growing. It is on these plantations that workers are exploited for free labor and their families are manipulated into multiple different forms of trafficking, such as child labor and sex trafficking.
What can I do to help?
The best way that consumers can help aid in the effort to end human trafficking in the tea industry, specifically, is to begin a trend within the tea-buying community. Companies will be more willing to invest money into purifying their supply chains if their customers force a change: this is where you come in. By simply buying fair-trade tea instead of the cheap alternative, you are showing large-scale tea companies the importance of paying living-wages and providing a safe environment for workers and their families.