Country’s tea export may face a severe setback after three years if necessary steps are not immediately taken for increasing its production.
“Our tea has a great demand in internal as well as external markets. The demand is on the rise day by day, but production of tea in the country has not increased in proportion to the requirement,” Joint secretary (export) of Commerce Ministry Atiqur Rahman told UNB.
“If the trend continues, the country may not be able to export tea. Rather, we’ll have to import tea to meet our internal demand after three years,” he said.
Last year, some 64m kg of tea was produced in the country, while the internal demand was 63m kg. The country earned foreign exchange worth Tk222.3m by exporting 1.5m kg of tea last year, according to official sources. However, unofficial sources said that the internal demand is more than the official figure.
According to the Commerce Ministry, internal tea consumption is rising every year 12.69% due to the rise of population and urbanisation. Tea export is decreasing annually by 8.77% due to the increasing internal consumption.
If this trend continues, there will be no tea left for export after 2016. Rather, the country will have to import tea from abroad to meet the internal demand, said the sources.
In the past, tea played a significant role in the country’s economic development by earning foreign exchange. But, its export earning has been witnessing fall over the last five years.
According to official sources, Bangladesh earned Tk899m by exporting 10.56m kg of tea in 2007; Tk9770m by exporting 8.39m kg tea in 2008; Tk 433.5m by exporting 3.15m kg in 2009; Tk176.7m by exporting 0.91m kg in 2010; Tk231.2m by exporting 1.47m kg in 2011; and Tk222.3m by exporting 1.50m kg in 2012.
The country has a total of 165 tea gardens where 116,011 hectare of land is brought under tea cultivation. But, a portion of land in the tea gardens remained unutilised.
In the last 10 years (2003-12), some 83.40% of tea produced in the country was used for internal consumption, while 11.07% exported abroad.
At present, Bangladesh exports tea to countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Ukraine and UK after meeting the internal demand.
Expressing concern over the inadequate tea production, Bangladesh Tea Association President Safwan Chowdhury said the government should give more attention to the tea sector for increasing its output.
“We urged the government to give more soft loans for increasing the tea output. At present, tea growers are given loan at 9% interest rate. We call for further reduction of interest rate,” he said.
Assistant secretary of the Commerce Ministry Khurshid Alam Siddique said Bangladesh Tea Board has taken up 10 projects of 12-year duration to produce 100m kg of tea annually by 2021.
The projects include bringing about 6,440 hectare of fallow land in six districts -- Moulvibazar, Habiganj, Sylhet, Chittagong, Rangamati and Panchagarh -- under tea farming by June 2019 in order to increase the tea production.
Some 19,000 people will also get employment under the projects that will cost about Tk2050m. A proposal seeking the amount has already been sent to the Finance Ministry.
Referring to the lease of government khas land for tea cultivation, AKM Shamsul Arefin, deputy secretary (khas land-1) of the Land Ministry, told UNB that there is dearth of suitable khas land for tea farming.
He, however, said huge area of government khas land in Moulvibazar, Habiganj, Sylhet and CHT region are now illegally occupied by different quarters. Those lands can be used for tea cultivation.