Tea gardens seeing fresh investment
The jump in consumption of tea, once a preserve of the elite, brought about by the rise in people's purchasing power over the past decade has presented tea garden owners with a renewed and compelling business case.
Take the case of Halda Valley, an upmarket brand that specialises in selling tea. In the last ten years, its leased plantation area has doubled, said Shamim Khan, managing director of Halda Valley Food and Beverage.
As people's socioeconomic conditions improved, so did their purchasing power and consumption of tea, said Khan, whose father acquired the Halda Valley Tea Estate in Chattogarm's Fatikchhari upazila in 2002.
Between 2014 and 2016, consumption of tea leaves per person in Bangladesh was 480 grams, according to the London-based International Tea Committee. In 2019-2021, that stood at 520 grams.
The company would be ramping up its production in the coming days, he added.
"The per capita tea consumption is increasing and new drinkers are being added every year," said Shah Moinuddin Hasan, general manager of Ispahani Tea.
The demand for tea is increasing at an average rate of 5 percent every year, according to BTB.
Hotels, restaurants and tea stalls account for 50-55 percent of tea consumption in Bangladesh, according to industry people. Homes and offices account for the rest.
Tea consumption is bound to increase further, said Kamran Tanvirur Rahman, chairman of the Bangladesh Tea Association, an association of tea garden owners.
The population increase and the economic lift from GDP growth would propel tea consumption to another level in the near future.
"That's why every garden owner is investing," he added.
There are 168 tea estates in the country, according to the BTA.
Had domestic production not increased, tea would have to be imported, said BTB officials.
In 2013, the average yield of tea per acre was 534 kilograms. In 2022, it stood at 664 kg, according to data from the Bangladesh Tea Board (BTB).
During the period, acreage increased from 146,000 acres to 175,000 acres.
New seedlings have to be planted in a specific part of the vacant space of the garden every year, Hasan said. As such, many new places have come under tree plantation in the last ten years, he added.
In 2022, the country produced 9.4 crore kg of tea, up from 6.6 crore kg in 2013, according to BTB.
It will be possible to further increase the average production of tea per acre, said Ismail Hossain, director of Bangladesh Tea Research Institute.
For this, the tea garden owners and BTB should work together, he added.
Tea production in Bangladesh got a boost at the turn of the century after BTB officials came back from Sri Lanka, one of the main tea producers in the world. They came back with new plantation techniques and knowledge.
Around 2002, tea cultivation started in Panchagarh, Lalmonirhat, Bandarban, Khagrachhari, Rangamati and Cox's Bazar areas.
Before that, tea was produced in Sylhet and Chattogram.
Moulvibazar's 90 tea gardens account for 55 percent of the production. Habiganj comes in second, contributing to 22 percent of tea produced.
Bangladesh is currently listed as the world's eighth largest tea producer, accounting for about 2 percent of the total production.