Roadmap to revive tea production

Roughly 169 years after tea cultivation began in the country, the government has decided to revive the industry’s glory by chalking out a roadmap that has advised provision of financial assistance from the donor agencies. The commerce ministry has prepared the 15-year term roadmap to ensure the success of the Bangladesh tea industry in four phases. These phases comprise short-term (five years), mid-term (10 years) and long-term (15 years) plans and a master plan to increase tea production from 67.38 million kg to 129.43 million kg by 2025, sources in the ministry disclosed. To implement the proposed roadmap for tea, once one of the country’s main exportable crops, the commerce ministry mentioned in its roadmap that it would provide Tk. 967.36 crore, the sources added. Senior secretary of the commerce ministry, Hedayetullah Al Mamoon, told The Independent that the ministry has sent the roadmap for tea to the Cabinet Division, seeking approval of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) at its meeting. “After receiving approval from the CCEA, we will be able to obtain the contributions of the relevant ministries and divisions to revive the glory of the tea industry in the country,” he said. “In the roadmap, we mentioned taking financial assistance from different donor agencies: the World Bank (WB), Asian Development Bank (ADB), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), European Commission (EC) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to implement the roadmap of the tea sector. We will also try and arrange funding from our internal resources to implement it,” he added.
“We cannot destroy the 163-year-old tea industry. We have a large pool of skilled manpower and the cultivable land required. That is why we will increase production of tea to 129.43 million kg by 2025,” he said. “We will introduce Bangladeshi branded tea to help expand tea marketing abroad with a view to boost tea exports,” the official added.
“We would be able to produce the required quantities of tea from the country if we implement the roadmap properly,” he opined. He disclosed that some importers were importing low quality tea since local demand was rising. “From now onwards, nobody can import tea without prior permission from the Tea Board,” Al Mamoon announced. According to the short-term plan of the proposed tea roadmap, the commerce ministry plans to increase tea production by expanding 2,000 hectares of cultivable land suitable for tea.
The expansion of tea infrastructure would entail bringing 600 hectares in the country’s northern region and 3,000 hectares in the Chittagong Hill Tracts under cultivation by setting up small tea gardens in the areas under the five-year plan. At the same time, there are plans to set up a tea auction centre at Srimangal in Sylhet.
As per the mid-term and long-term plans, the commerce ministry plans to establish a number of tea valleys by increasing cultivable lands and producing different food items, aromatic tea and cosmetic items from the tea produced. Once an important tea-exporting country, Bangladesh lost this status as export decreased gradually because of slow growth of production and growing domestic consumption.
Tea industry was established in Bangladesh in 1840 when a pioneer tea garden was inaugurated on the slopes of the hills of Chittagong, where the Chittagong Club now stands. The first commercial tea garden was established in 1857 in Malnichhara, Sylhet.
At present, there are 64,886.25 hectares of cultivable land that are suitable for tea, out of a total of 1,14,781.81 hectares of land in the country. Currently, demand for tea is increasing annually at a rate of roughly 5.25 per cent. Only 67.38 million kg of tea were produced from the country’s 162 tea gardens. However, only 0.49 million kg of tea was exported while 10.68 million kg were imported last year (2015).
Amongst the gardens, four are owned by the Bangladesh Tea Board, 12 by the National Tea Company, 21 by Starling Company, 56 by different private limited companies and seven by James Finley, while the rest 62 gardens are under different kinds of private ownership.
Based on UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) statistics for global production from 1993-2013, the 10 top tea producing nations are: China (tops the list with annual production of 1,000,130 tonnes), India (900,094 tonnes), Kenya (303,308 tonnes), Sri Lanka (295,830 tonnes), Turkey (174,932 tonnes), Indonesia (157,388 tonnes), Vietnam (116,780 tonnes), Japan (88,900 tonnes), Islamic Republic of Iran (83,990 tonnes) and Argentina (69,924 tonnes). According to an FAO article, the world tea production (black, green and instant) increased significantly by 6 pc to 5.07 million tonnes in 2013. Black tea output increased by 5.4pc in response to continued firm prices while green tea output increased by 5.1pc. Growth in world output was due to major increases in the major tea producing countries. China remained the largest tea producing country with an output of 1.9 million tonnes, accounting for more than 38 percent of the world total, while production in India, the second largest producer, also increased to reach 1.2 million tonnes in 2013. Output also increased in the two largest exporting countries where production reached 436 300 tonnes in Kenya and 343 100 tonnes in Sri Lanka. Apart from the 7.5 percent decline in Vietnam to 185 000 tonnes, production in other major producing countries increased: Indonesia to 152 700 tonnes; Bangladesh to 66,200 tonnes; Uganda to 58,300 tonnes; Malawi to 46,500 tonnes; Tanzania to 32,400 tonnes; and Rwanda to 25,200 tonnes.