Tea demand and production both on the rise

National Tea Day is being celebrated in the country for the today, Saturday. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had joined the tea board as the chairman on 4 June 1957. The day is being celebrated in the country since last year in remembrance of Bangabandhu’s contribution in Bangladesh’s tea industry since our liberation.

A man keeps a tally on tea leaves as workers arrive with bundles of tea leaves in Bharaura Tea Garden in Sreemangal of Moulvibazar.
Prothom Alo file photo

Because of the corona outbreak, the demand of tea faced a steep decline in the past two years. These two years were nightmarish for tea producing and marketing companies.

However, this year the demand of tea is seeing a slow but steady growth. This year’s production till now has also been on the rise, compared to last year. Tea import has decreased as well.

The nation celebrates National Tea Day on Saturday with the theme 'A prosperous tea industry is the pledge of Tea Day'.

Basically, the demand of tea in Bangladesh started escalating more than a decade back. Increasing economic activities kept raising the consumption of tea as well.

As the market kept growing even bigger, mega industries became involved in tea production and marketing. And, those marketing companies took various steps to increase the consumption of tea.

Tea marketing companies said, life has returned to normal this year after the corona crisis came under control. This has increased the demand of tea outside the house as well. They expect the demand to grow even more once the season of local fruit has ended.

Shah Moinuddin Hasan, general manager of Ispahani Tea Limted, country’s topmost tea marketing company, said to Prothiom Alo the demand of tea has been increasing since the beginning of this year, compared to the corona-stricken two years. At the end of July, this demand will inflate even further.

Bangladesh Tea Board last revealed the total demand of tea in 2019. The demand was 95.2 million kilograms that year. The agency didn’t disclose the demand in the next couple of years.

However, analysis of the production, import and export data shows that the demand dropped below 90 million kilograms during that time. The demand is rising again now.

The demand increased 19 per cent at first

According to the records of tea board, 7.59 million kg of tea has been produced in the first quarter of this year. The production was slightly less than 5.92 million kg at the same time last year. As per this statistics, the increase rate of production is 19 per cent in four months.

Md Shah Alam, chairman of Bangladesh Tea Association, an organisation of tea-garden owners’ in Bangladesh, informed Prothom Alo it is tough to predict the yield at the start of the production.

However, it the weather remains favourable and there is no pest infestation, it can be hoped that the production will be good this year, he added.

The tea board has set a production target of 100 million Kg this time. The year before, 96.5 million Kg of tea was produced, which was the highest in the country’s history of tea farming.

It was the tea producers, who brought about this success in the production of tea. Reformation and fresh investments in the tea gardens bring forth good returns to tea production. The tea board also takes different initiatives for the expansion of tea cultivation.

Tea cultivation is going up every year. The government decided to provide incentives in tea export to inspire people into exporting tea. Bangladesh Bank published a circular, connected to this in November last year.

Demand to revoke preconditions for incentive

As a precondition to receiving incentives, it was added in the circular that one has to export tea produced in their own tea garden.

According to the existing tea marketing system, tea produced in a garden has to be sold through auctioning. Most companies export tea after buying them from the auction.

Producers can collect maximum 25 per cent tea from their gardens, with approval from the tea board.

Two of the exporting companies said, because of this one condition, most of the exporting companies are being denied export incentives. This precondition is contradictory to tea marketing policy. They demanded cancellation of this condition for increasing export.

Tea once had become an import-dependent product, for the production failed to rise in line with the demand. Even in 2018-19 fiscal year, 8.4 million kg of tea had to be imported to meet up the demand.

As the production of tea soared because of local entrepreneurs, import of tea is no longer required.

Import declining

Around 200,000 kg of tea has been imported in the first four months of the current year. Meanwhile, the amount of tea import was 373,000 kg at the corresponding period last year.

In actuality, top tea marketing companies import this tea to bring variety in the taste of tea. Tea is not imported to meet up the local demand anymore.

Major General Md Ashraful Islam, chairman of Bangladesh Tea Board said, different government initiatives are being implemented to flourish the tea industry.

Many projects have been taken to increase tea cultivation on plain land. Monitoring has been accelerated to raise tea cultivation by 2.5 per cent every year, he added.