Toby’s Travels: Growing Fair Trade Supplies in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a fascinating place.  The island sits just to the east of India, in the Indian Ocean, and has one of the oldest recorded histories.  Despite its small size and secluded location, Sri Lanka is home to a land rich in biodiversity — including a plethora of organic spices and teas.

Sri Lanka Map

Map of Sri Lanka from

I traveled Sri Lanka last fall to work with our partners on growing the current supply of Fair Trade ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon. I also was there to meet with some small farmers that grow clove, black pepper, several essential oils and green tea.



Cinnamon Tree

Cinnamon Tree in Sri Lanka

Cinnamon, the bark of the laurel tree, is actually native to Sri Lanka and often grows in plantations.  While the tree can grow over 200 feet high, most trees are maintained like bushes for ease of harvest.  We’re going to be posting a detailed post about cinnamon later this fall so stay tuned.

Cinnamon Plantation in Sri Lanka

Cinnamon Plantation in Sri Lanka

Because the farmers’ fields were in very remote parts of the country and my time there was short, I wasn’t able to make it out to the growing sites of all the crops.  However, I did a thorough visit of all the production facilities as part of our HQO quality assurance process. Each year I audit our growers’ production facilities to ensure we’re all working together to adhere to the highest quality and safety standards.

Sri Lanka Fair Trade Culture Center

Sri Lanka Fair Trade Culture Center

Sri Lanka Culture Center Event

Sri Lanka Culture Center Event

Another exciting part of my visit was securing more Fair Trade certified product.  One of our big initiatives at HQO is growing our Fair Trade program.  We recognize consumers not only want a healthy and safe product but they want a product that was grown with great consideration for the environment and the farmer.  This is were the Fair Trade program answers the call.  From holding monthly medical and optical clinics to building a cultural center on their plantation site, our partners in Sri Lanka have done an amazing job in providing much-needed healthcare and farmer education to those in the most remote parts of Sri Lanka. The funds from the Fair Trade program have also helped build homes for the farm families and purchase school supplies for their children. Everyone in the community benefits.

Fair Trade Certified Logo

Fair Trade Certified Logo

It was really neat to see some of the amazing things the Fair Trade program provides for families in need.  My visit reinforced the call we all should have to look for the Fair Trade logo when we’re purchasing tea, chocolate and other food products.

You can learn more about the Fair Trade program by visiting or contacting us directly at

Next stop, India!


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