Since its inception in 1906, Ceylon Tobacco Company has been an integral part of the country’s economic, social and environmental progress.
Our story of resilience over a century encapsulates not only the establishment and growth of a company, but the contributions we have made along the way in the economic, social and environmental development of our island nation.
In 1906, British American Tobacco (BAT) opened its office in the then, Crown Colony of Ceylon. For the first five years of its existence the head office was in Prince Street in the heart of Colombo, from where it carried out its trading business – buying and selling cigarettes. In 1927, BAT set up a cigarette factory in an old graphite shed at Bloemendhal Road. It was here that the Company started the manufacture of its first cigarettes of Ceylon. By 1932, the local company had come of age and was named the Ceylon Tobacco Company. Incorporating itself in Ceylon, the Company declared that its principal objectives would be to carry on the business of manufacturing and dealing in tobacco cigars, cigarettes and snuff.
As the business grew, the existing manufacturing facility could not keep pace with the increasing demand and the Company decided to set up a brand-new factory and head office at Korteboam Street, Kotahena, away from the congestion and bustle of Pettah. CTC’s new factory was opened on August 23, 1940 and the Company’s office and factory are still situated at this premises.
The development of manufacturing went hand in hand with efforts at tobacco cultivation. With the establishment of this new factory it was widely anticipated that a certain amount of locally grown tobacco will be used in the manufacture of cigarettes. The Government of Ceylon had been focusing its efforts on growing tobacco in Sri Lanka since the early 1930’s and by 1934 requested BAT to look into the possibility of cultivating tobacco for its use. In 1937, encouraged by the Government of Ceylon and in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture, the Company launched its first scheme to cultivate cured Virginia Tobacco. By 1938, a separate Tobacco Division had been established within the Department of Agriculture to encourage local farmers to grow tobacco as tobacco was seen as an important industry for its potential as both a source of employment as well as a source of revenue. By 1940, not only had the local company come into being, it was also producing its own cigarettes and beginning to grow its own tobacco. By 1954, the company had become a Public Limited Liability Company, listed on the stock market, another important milestone in CTC’s history.