Bangladesh’s tea production surged to a record high of 102.92 million kilogrammes (kgs) in the just-concluded year of 2023, according to the state-run Bangladesh Tea Board (BTB).
Although tea gardens witnessed lower production at the beginning of the season due to a lack of rainfall, favourable weather from then onwards, combined with supportive measures, led to the bumper harvest, according to tea board officials and tea garden owners.
However, tea garden owners continue to be discontented as prices remain low year-round.
BTB Member (Finance & Trade) Mohammad Nurullah Noori informed The Daily Star yesterday that the final calculation of annual tea production by the 168 gardens and small farmers in northern region of the nation showed a 9.69 percent year-on-year increase, up from 93.83 million kgs in 2022.
Terming the yield as the highest in 170 years, Bangladesh Tea Board Chairman Major General Md Ashraful Islam said coordinated efforts from stakeholders, including the commerce ministry, tea board and garden owners, had ensured the record yield.
Mentioning that the tea sector is an industry where proper planning is essential, he said the government had adopted a development roadmap for the country’s tea sector in 2017.
The proper implementation of that had led to gradual increases in yields, he said.
He also mentioned different measures that were adopted to boost production, including the mandatory increase of plantation area by 2.5 percent each year and arrangement of modern training for workers as well as the distribution of free saplings and plucking machines among small farmers.
However, he said the quality of the tea produced needed to improve significantly in order to increase tea export.
Tea export rose last year, with a total of 1.04 million kgs of tea exported compared to 0.78 million kgs in 2022.
On the other hand, Kamran Tanvirur Rahman, chairman of the Bangladesh Tea Association, was disgruntled despite the record yield.
He said bumper harvests had become a burden for tea garden owners because they were frustrated by the significant fall in both sales and prices of tea during the ongoing season, which began in April.
In last 20 weekly auctions in Chattogram, the average price of tea stood below Tk 175 per kg. It was above Tk 200 a kg during the same period last season.
Furthermore, almost every weekly auction this season has seen around 50 percent of the tea on offer go unsold.
The poor prices and sales have dealt a heavy blow to the industry, especially in the face of rising production costs, he said, adding that many gardens would not survive in the coming years if sales and prices did not improve.