Bangladesh's second tea auction centre at Sreemangal yesterday opened its doors to traders, in a development that is set to provide a further boost to the Moulvibazar district.
The Tea Planters and Traders Association of Bangladesh (TPTAB) expects to earn nearly Tk 2 billion every year by selling high-quality tea from the auction centre, a longstanding demand of the growers in the region, dubbed the tea capital of the country.
It was cumbersome for the tea growers and traders from Sylhet to carry tea all the way to the country's lone tea trading centre in Chittagong.
Carrying finished tea to Chittagong was expensive, and sometimes the goods-laden trucks were even hijacked on the highways.
Md Jahangir Al Mustahidur Rahman, chairman of the Bangladesh Tea Board, oversaw the inaugural auction at the centre, located at Khan Tower in Sreemangal.
Seven brokerage houses and more than 150 bidders participated in the auction, said A Momen, convener of TPTAB.
“The brokerage houses have judged the quality of the tea and bought nearly 550,000 kg at the auction,” he said, adding that the brokers have already built warehouses near the auction centre.
Though tea has been cultivated in the Sylhet region for about 150 years, this is the first tea auction house in the region.
A tea auction centre was built in Chittagong during the British rule for ease of shipping.
Thus any tea produced in Bangladesh is first sent to the port city, where it would be sold for export or domestic consumption, according to MA Ahad, former president of Moulvibazar Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The first commercial tea garden was established in 1849 in Malnichhara, Sylhet.
With a total of 135 tea estates, Sylhet contributes 90 percent of total tea production in Bangladesh. But the entire market was dependent on the lone tea auction centre in Chittagong.
The tea brought to Chittagong for auction would deteriorate in quality during transit, said Zahar Tarafder, member secretary of the TPTAB. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced the foundation of the auction house in 2012. Finance Minister AMA Muhith inaugurated the auction house on Dec 9, 2017.
Currently, Bangladesh produces tea on 64,886 hectres of land in the districts like Moulvibazar, Sylhet, Panchagarh, Thakurgaon, Lalmonirhat and Dinajpur, according to the commerce ministry.
A total of 1.33 lakh workers are employed in the tea garden, while 76.58 million kilograms of tea was auctioned in the April-March period of the fiscal year.
Bangladesh exported 2.56 million kgs of tea in 2017.