Bangladesh recorded a record level of tea production, registering a yield of 96.5 million kg, in the last calendar year 2021, which contributed to a sharp drop in imports.

However, the success does not satisfy the major tea marketing companies, as they claim that the quality of the majority of locally grown tea leaves is not up to par.

“Consumers are used to having tea with the best leaves. To produce premium quality tea, we need quality leaves, which we cannot find at local auctions,” said Mohammad Idris, Executive Director of the HRC group, one of the tea producers. tradespeople.

Thus, popular companies still have to import tea leaves from different countries, including Kenya, to ensure the quality of their premium brands, he told The Business Standard.

Along with increasing production, relevant authorities should prioritize quality, Idris added.

Echoing Idris, several other senior officials from major tea marketing companies told TBS that the majority of the country’s 167 existing tea gardens “failed” to produce quality tea leaves. They (the garden owners) were competing to increase their yields and make higher profits.

“Although the Bangladesh Tea Board is aggressive in increasing the country’s overall tea production, it does not care about the quality,” said another senior official of the tea marketing company, in a statement. covered with anonymity.

He suggested that the board be strict in maintaining the quality of the sheets.

However, a professional tea taster, seeking anonymity, told TBS that there was no problem with the quality of tea grown in local gardens, big companies were importing “low quality” tea to add color to their brands. “The quality of local tea is quite acceptable. Importation should be discouraged,” he said.

When contacted, Madhul Kabir Chowdhury, deputy director (trade) of the board, told The Business Standard that, keeping pace with the increase in production, the import of tea leaves had significantly decreases. He hoped that imports would decrease further in the future.

“In addition to quantity, we are now focusing on the quality of the leaves.

Recording in production

Tea production hit a record high in 2021, according to the Bangladesh Tea Board. That year, the 167 tea gardens produced 96.5 million kg of tea, up 11.7% from 86.39 million kg in the previous year (2020).

It was 96.07 million kg in 2019, 82.13 million kg in 2018, 78.95 million kg in 2017.

Production was recorded at 53.40 million kg in 2006. It has been steadily increasing since then. However, in 2020, the trend lost momentum due to the outbreak of Covid-19 in the country.

Since the last decade, tea cultivation has spread to flat areas, especially in northern Bangladesh, outside the traditional hilly areas, which has greatly contributed to the boom in production.

According to data from the Tea Board, small farmers in the plain produced 14.5 million kg of tea in 2021, up from 13 million the previous year.

Usually, tea leaves grown on flat surfaces are sold at Tk 100-200 per kg, while the price is Tk 200 for tea from hilly areas. Additionally, frontline gardens sell their tea at 260-270 TK per kg.

Currently, the annual tea consumption is about 90-95 million kg. It increases by 3 to 4% every year.

Imports down sharply

Tea imports have fallen by 93% over the past four years. The import was 8.73 million kg in 2017 and fell to only 0.62 million, or 6.25 lakh, kg in 2021. The reason for this drop is simple: a sharp increase in local production. Imports were 7.44 million kg in 2018, 1.52 million kg in 2019, 0.67 million kg in 2020.

Major brands continue to import to meet the demand for premium tea products.

On January 6 this year, Abul Khair Group, one of the country’s leading tea distributors, received the green light from the authorities to import 1,60,000 kg of tea leaves, according to the Tea Board. It will import “black tea” from Kenya. Ispahani Tea was also authorized to import 2,88,000 kg on the same day.

In addition, the council is expected to allow several other companies to import tea this year.

Export ups and downs

Although local production of tea leaves has increased and imports have declined, tea leaf exports have experienced ups and downs in recent years.

In 2021, the country exported 0.68 million kg of tea leaves, a sharp drop from 2.17 million kg in 2020. Exports were 0.6 million kg in 2019, 0.65 million kg in 2018 and 2.56 million kg in 2017.

Industry insiders said the gradual increase in domestic consumption and the ups and downs in production were behind the zigzag trend in exports. In addition, the quality of the local leaves was also a fact.