Tea cultivation in plain land brings delight to farmers
With help from Bangladesh Tea Board, 82 farmers in Lalmonirhat district of Rangpur division are farming tea on 121 acres of plain land with great success.
Among them, Shahanara Begum Soma and Ferdous Alam embarked on their venture in Hatibandha upazila in 2017, according to the board's local project office.
Not only has the farm helped the couple attain solvency, but also acted as encouragement for others.
Since 2015, with advice and overall support of the board, tea farmers in the region began to expand cultivation.
An average of 1,500 kilogrammes (kgs) of green tea leaves are now produced on each acre of plain land every month in the district.
Kapor Uddin, a freedom fighter from Kisamat Nizzama village of Sreerampur union of Patgram upazila, told The Daily Star that he started to cultivate tea on three acres of plain land in 2018 with help from the board.
"I sell green tea leaves for about Tk 21 to Tk 24 per kg at a tea processing factory in Panchagarh," he said.
Nur Sheikh, a farmer from Dahagram village in the same upazila, said he has been cultivating tea on one acre of land for the past three years.
But even though Sheikh is happy with this year's yields, he expressed some dissatisfaction at the current price.
"If we could sell green tea leaves at Tk 25 per kg, it would have been more profitable," he said.
Sheikh went on to say that it costs Tk 3,000 for six labourers to harvest 1,400-1,500 kgs of green tea leaves from each acre of land every month.
Besides, the cost of fertilisers and pesticides is another Tk 3,500 per acre each month while the harvested tea leaves sold at about Tk 30,000 per acre, he added.
Enayet Hossain, a farmer from Baura area of the same upazila, told The Daily Star that he was benefiting by cultivating tea on one-and-a-half acres of plain land.
"I used to know that tea is a crop grown only in hilly areas but with help from Bangladesh Tea Board, we are now producing tea on plain land, and for this we are happy and proud," he said.
"Our big problem in tea cultivation is that we have to sell the green tea leaves in Panchagarh. We have to bear the cost of transportation," Hossain added.
Md Arif Khan, project director of the board, said the only tea processing factory in Lalmonirhat's Hatibandha is closed due to power outages, forcing local farmers to sell their produce about 150 kilometres away in Panchagarh.
However, the board has ensured vehicle support, for which farmers have to pay the fuel cost and driver hire charge, enabling transport of 1,700-2,000 kgs of tea leaves, Khan said.
The board said it came as a surprise for an unexpected amount of tea to be produced on the plain lands of Lalmonirhat, meaning the soil was very suitable for tea cultivation.
"We are providing free assistance of various agricultural tools, including shallow machines, to the farmers who are interested in tea cultivation. They are also provided free fertiliser and pesticide assistance. Farmers are always advised and guided about the care of tea gardens," he added.
Expressing hope that Lalmonirhat will play an important role in tea cultivation in the next few years, Khan told The Daily Star, adding that tea cultivation would one day give a boost to the district's economy.