Tea industry

I must congratulate Mr. Sarwar Ahmed for his write ups, especially on tea in Tetulia where he has really highlighted a hero-- Mr Mosharraf Hossain.

Tea will dry up for domestic consumption soon and according to him by 2016 we will have to import it!! That would usher the beginning of the end of 155 years or more of the tea planting industry, a very organized sector in our part of the world, with all its evils creeping in then. And like our jute industry failure, tea growing will then be destined to fail. What is the catch 22 then? How do we avoid having to import tea?

Expanding land is getting difficult and it would not be the answer, contract farming even in the present plantations and vertical and higher unit productivity and quality production may be an opening and some light at the end of the tunnel.

Quoting the Frontier Sun, Guwahati, Saturday 06 February:

“The Indian tea industry has strongly opposed the government of India move to unilaterally allow import of tea into the country. The Indian Tea Association is of the view that by its very nature the policy regime works against the Indian tea industry. This opening up to unbridled competition will sound the death knell of the Indian tea industry.”

The tea supply and demand situation of India in many ways is similar to ours in Bangladesh. The pressure of the Indian tea industry became so overwhelming that the government of India had to stop importing in the manner they started off. We have to learn from history even if it is of a neighbouring country.

The trouble is as you might definitely know that in Bangladesh while the rate of investment in the economy is 17.00% of GDP per annum, the tea industry has only attained 3.90% investment of total turnover per annum over the last 23 years (1979 2002). The low rate of investment has led to a slow growth of 2.82% in tea production per year. This scenario cannot sustain the massive internal consumption of 10.89% per annum due to increased tea drinking habit, population growth and rapid urbanisation during 1973 to 2006. However, we still can do something to halt the decay and turn the flow of events. Mr Mosharraf Hossain has shown some of the ways.

Now that the demand of tea is high and a far higher turnover is being achieved in tea, investment is going to be better. This will all evaporate overnight if we start to arbitrarily import tea. Greater care and widespread discussion with all concerned are a must, please don't let our tea estates perish without sympathy like jute. It will be a social catastrophe.

The Daily Star