Ensure fair price of tea leaves in northern districts

The Daily Star

Small-scale tea growers of Panchagarh, Thakurgaon and Dinajpur have demanded effective steps for ensuring fair price of green tea leaves in the northern districts.

In a view exchange meeting with the stakeholders of tea sector at the Thakurgaon Deputy Commissioner’s (DC) office on Monday, tea growers alleged that they had to sell the produce for very low prices this year due to manipulation by a syndicate of local tea factory owners.

Maj Gen Md Shohail Hossain Khan, chairman of Bangladesh Tea Board, attended as chief guest at the meeting with Thakurgaon DC KM Kamruzzaman Selim in the chair.

The tea growers demanded establishing a state-owned tea factory in the district with allocation of subsidy, setting up an auction center for processed tea and arranging experienced and skilled manpower at the Tea Board’s zonal office at Panchagarh to ensure fair prices of the item.

This year the tea growers incurred huge losses due to low price, said Abu Shahin, general secretary of Baliadangi Upazila Tea Welfare Association.

“In the beginning of tea plucking season in mid-March, a kg of tea leaves sold for Tk 35 to Tk 38. But after only two weeks the price started falling and tea growers had to sell green tea leaves for Tk 8 to Tk 14 a kg during the last five months.

“Last year I got Tk 9.5 lakh by selling tea from my 5.5-acre tea garden while I can hardly expect Tk 1 lakh this year. To keep the prices stable, a committee should be formed, comprising officials of district administration and tea board, growers and factory owners,” Shahin said.

Udoy Ram Sing, 45, who has grown tea on a five-bigha land in Baliadangi, said, “We are in a fix after making tea gardens. While we are not getting fair price, it is not easy to resume cultivation of former crops on the land.”

Setting up of a state-run tea factory and an auction house is needed to save the northern region’s promising tea industry as well as those who have made tea gardens on the lands earlier used for other purposes, said Md Awal Khan, 55, of Birganj upazila of Dinajpur.

Maj Gen Md Shohail Hossain Khan urged the growers to pluck tea leaves following instructions of experts so that the quality of the processed tea does not fall.

“We will send a proposal to the authorities concerned for setting up a state-owned tea factory in the northern region,” he said.

About 5,692 acres of land in Panchagarh and 742 acres in Thakurgaon have been brought under tea cultivation.

This season’s production will be over one crore kg against the target of 90 lakh kg, said Dr Mohammad Shamim Al Mamun, senior scientific officer and project director of Northern Bangladesh Project under Bangladesh Tea Board in Panchagarh.

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