Record tea yield keeps agro-economy vibrant in northern districts

An all-time record 17.759-million kilogrammes (kg) of processed tea worth Taka 2.84 billion produced in five northern districts last year kept the regional agro-economy vibrant despite the global crises and Covid-19 pandemic.

Officials of Bangladesh Tea Board (BTB) at its Panchagarh regional office said the last year’s production of 17.759 million kgs of processed tea is higher by 3.219 million kgs against the production of 14.54 million kgs of the previous year 2021.

“Despite the global crises, tea cultivation on plain lands continued expanding in Panchagarh, Thakurgaon, Dinajpur, Nilphamari and Lalmonirhat districts last year,” BTB’s Development Officer Agriculturist Md. Amir Hossain told BSS on Saturday.

Owners of nine registered and 21 unregistered tea gardens and 8,355 small holders cultivated tea on 12,079 acres of land in these five districts and produced over 90.274-mn kgs of green tea leaves in 2022.

The 12,079 acres land area brought under tea farming in 2022 is higher by 645 acres against 11,434 acres of land in 2021 in these districts where farmers cultivated the cash crop in 10,170 acres of plain lands in 2020.

The produced 90.274m kgs of green tea leaves in 2022 is higher by 16.704m kgs against 73.57m kgs of green tea leaves produced in 2021.

“Following a direction of the then prime minister Sheikh Hasina during her visit to Panchagarh in 1996, the then deputy commissioner Rabiul Islam planted tea saplings on Panchagarh Circuit House premises on experimental basis,” Hossain added.

Getting good results, a BTB team conducted a feasibility study in Panchagarh and Thakurgaon districts in 1999 and found 16,000 hectares of land suitable for commercial basis tea cultivation.

“Tentulia Tea Company Limited (TTCL) first started commercial tea cultivation on plain lands in Tentulia upazila in 2000,” said Hossain.

Later, other companies and local farmers started commercial tea farming in 2005 ushering in a new hope in the agro-economy alongside creating huge jobs for farm-labourers.

A total of 25 companies operating in Panchagarh, Thakurgaon and Lalmonirhat processed the 90.274m kgs of green tea leaves producing 17.759m kgs of processed tea in 2022 which is 22.13 per cent higher than the production in 2021.

In 2022, the produced 17.759m kgs of processed tea in five northern districts stands at 18.92 per cent against the total national production of 93.83m kgs.

“As per guidance of BTB chairman major general Md. Ashraful Islam, we are providing the latest technologies and training to farmers for further development of the tea industry on plain lands in the north,” Hossain added.

Tea grower Shahinur Rahman of village Buraburi in Tentulia upazila of Panchagarh said he started ‘small-scale gardening-basis’ tea cultivation on his land seven years ago.

“I am now cultivating tea on 6.50 acres of land and selling green tea-leaves to tea processing companies to earn excellent profits,” Rahman said.

Farmers Ali Ahsan Prodhan of Sadar upazila and Matiar Rahman of Atwari upazila in Panchagarh said ‘small-scale gardening-basis’ tea cultivation on plain lands is increasing every year bringing fortunes to farmers.

“After getting repeated bumper yields with handsome prices every year, I am cultivating tea on about 60 acres of land now,” Rahman added.

Tea-garden workers Rubi, Aklima, and Sabiha of Tentulia upazila said they are earning better wages from plucking green-tea leaves to lead a normal life despite the global crises and Covid-19 pandemic.

President of Bangladesh Small Tea Garden Owners’ Association Amirul Haque Khokan said boosting tea cultivation is bringing lucrative profits to farmers alongside creating huge jobs improving the living standard of many people in five northern districts.

“Currently, over 30,000 people, including 18,000 women, are earning well from farm activities and plucking tea-leaves to lead a better life,” Haque added.