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Dhaka Tribune

Unending misery for workers despite record tea production

The production of tea in the country has been increasing continuously for a decade

Update : 30 Apr 2023, 11:02 PM

Tea production in the country surged to a historic high of 94 million kg in 2022, which is the second-highest annual production in 169 years. However, this is still short of the 100 million kg target that had been set by the authorities. 

The tea plantations have failed to achieve the target due to various obstacles, including hostile weather and labour strikes.

According to sources from the Bangladesh Tea Board, around 90.6 million kg of tea was produced in 168 gardens in the country in 2021. In 2020, the country produced around 86.4 million kg of tea, which is 10.5 million kg more than the target.

Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

The production of tea in the country has been increasing continuously for a decade. As the production of tea has regularly exceeded the target, the production target of tea in 2022 was increased by a leap of 22.22 million kg.

Previously, the tea board had fixed the growth target of tea production at 2-2.5% every year. Insufficient monsoon rains, and weeks of labour strikes during the peak season have prevented the record 100 million kg tea production target from being achieved, say industry stakeholders.

They said that the growth of tea production in the country has been disrupted in the current season mainly due to strikes over wages.

Dhaka Tribune

Despite bumper production, there is no sign of any change in the fate of tea workers as their wages have been fixed at Tk170 per day. The workers live within the tea garden areas, deprived of basic amenities due to low income. 

Under such circumstances, Bangladesh will observe May Day today. Ahead of the day, Bijoy Hazra, organizing secretary of the Bangladesh Tea Workers Union, said that the workers do not own any land although their families have worked for over 200 years in these gardens. 

He called on the prime minister to give the workers ownership of the lands where they are currently residing. 

“We are far behind the mainstream population of the country. If we are given the rights over these lands then we can make some advancement,” he said. 

He added that the workers are not being able to cope with daily costs with the current pay and the workers will soon sit with the garden owners in this regard. 

Dhaka Tribune

It will be impossible to get a pay hike if the prices of tea are not increased as well. Tea prices have remained the same over the past ten years, he said. 

Golam Mohammad Shibli, chairman of Bangladesh Tea Sangsad Sylhet division unit, told Dhaka Tribune that prices have dropped in the international market and this is putting pressure on local gardens. 

He said that measures must be taken to stop the export of low-quality tea, and this can help increase the wages of local workers. 

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