Tea production in the country surged to a historic high of 9.6 crore kg in 2021 amid the Covid-19 pandemic, state-run Bangladesh Tea Board said.
This is also the highest annual tea production in the region's 167-year history of commercial tea cultivation.
Officials and tea garden owners described expansion of tea cultivation, increasing investment, use of new technologies and government initiatives as key reasons behind the rise in production.
Previously, Bangladesh posted a record high tea production of 9.607 crore kg in 167 large and small tea estates of the country in 2019. But production fell to 8.639 crores kg the following year.
Bangladesh Tea Board Chairman Major Gen Ashraful Islam said, "Hands-on training of tea cultivators in the northern region through "Camellia Khola Akash School" and provision of modern technology has resulted in 41% more tea production in plain and small tea estates last year than in 2020.
He also identified financial incentives to the sector by the government, regular monitoring and counselling from concerned authorities, relentless efforts of garden owners and workers, timely distribution of fertilisers at subsidised prices, among other reasons for the record tea production in 2021.
Besides, tea estate owners said, tea cultivation has expanded in the Northern region, including Panchagar, Lalmonirhat, Thakurgaon, Dinajpur and Chattogram districts in recent years. Many have begun re-cultivating once abandoned land after the sector started seeing good sales.
According to the Tea Board's data, commercial tea cultivation in the region began in 1854 with the Malnicherra Tea Estate in Sylhet. The industry has come a long way since then, with the government now aiming production to reach 14 crore Kg of tea annually by 2025.
Shah Alam, president of the Bangladesh Tea Association, told The Business Standard, "The country's tea estates are going through renovation works for the last few years. Old saplings are being replaced with new saplings. The country's tea estates are now more advanced in tea production than at any time in the past."
He said in addition to an adequate investment, tea production is increasing every year due to favourable weather.
"Gardeners have also increased the scope of tea cultivation by making new investments. If the trend of increasing production continues, then there will be no need to import tea on a large scale," added Alam.
Meanwhile, although production has surged, tea consumption has decreased amid the pandemic. The annual tea consumption in the country during the pre-pandemic period was estimated to be 9.5 crore kg, which according to tea estate owners has decreased by half during the pandemic.