Bangladesh achieved a milestone in tea production by setting a record in 2023, generating 102.9 million kg of tea from 168 tea gardens nationwide. This production marks the highest in Bangladesh’s 170-year tea cultivation history, bringing immense joy to those involved in the industry. The exceptional achievement is attributed to favorable weather, meticulous planning, and the replacement of old trees with new seedlings, as per production experts. This surpasses the previous record set in 2021.
You can also read: Bangladesh Bank Adopts Crawling Peg Policy to Hike Policy Rate
As per the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), tea is cultivated in 47 countries globally. The latest assessments from the London-based International Tea Committee revealed in 2023 that Bangladesh has climbed to the 8th position in global tea production, a significant advancement from being ranked 10th a decade ago.
Tea Production in Bangladesh Over the Years
Despite the initial challenges of low rainfall, the tea industry witnessed a significant turnaround, culminating in a remarkable 30% increase in exports during the year 2023.
Additionally, tea exports soared to 1.4 million kg in 2023, compared to 0.78 million kg in 2022. Notably, the previous production record of 96.51 million kg in 2021 was surpassed, further emphasizing the dynamic growth of Bangladesh’s tea industry. Due to the various effective measures taken by the present government, the tea industry has improved tremendously.
Nationwide Overview of Tea Garden
In 1970, Bangladesh had 150 tea gardens, but presently, the number has increased to 168. The country now boasts two tea auction centers, namely Chittagong Auction Center and Srimangal Auction Centre. Additionally, since 2002, small-scale tea plantations have thrived in Panchagarh, Lalmonirhat, Thakurgaon, Nilphamari, Dinajpur, and Bandarban districts, achieving considerable success through diverse initiatives by the Tea Board. Furthermore, the current government is executing a strategic plan titled ‘Development Roadmap: Bangladesh Tea Industry,’ aiming to propel the tea industry’s growth and contribute significantly to its future advancement.
History of Bangladesh’s Tea Industry
In the early 1800s, tea cultivation began in Assam and adjacent areas of India. Continuing this trend, land was designated in 1828 for tea plantations along the banks of the Karnaphuli River in the Chattogram district of Bangladesh. However, tea cultivation faced delays in that region for various reasons. In 1840, a tea garden called Kundder Bagan was established in the area adjacent to the present Chattogram Club in Chattogram City, but it disappeared soon after its establishment. Subsequently, in 1854, the Malanichhara tea plantation was established near Airport Road in Sylhet city, marking Malanichhara as the first commercial tea garden in Bangladesh.
Before gaining independence, tea was cultivated in only two districts in Bangladesh, one in Sylhet district known as ‘Surma Valley’ and the other in Chattogram district known as ‘Halda Valley.’ Presently, the Surma Valley of Greater Sylhet is divided into six valleys, including Laskarpur Valley, Balishira Valley, Manu-Dalai Valley, Longla Valley, and North Sylhet Valley. Halda Valley has been designated as Chattogram Valley.
On June 4, 1957, Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman became the first Bengali to hold the position of Chairman of the Tea Board. This position he held until October 23, 1958. During his tenure, he accelerated the construction of the Tea Board’s head office in Dhaka and strengthened the research activities of the Sreemangal Tea Research Station in Moulvibazar. Bangabandhu also played a pivotal role in developing high-yielding varieties (clones) of tea plants. In Karnaphuli tea gardens in Chattogram and Karanura in Sreemangal, he initiated the planting of high-yielding varieties of saplings to ensure a high tea yield. Additionally, he introduced the Contributory Provident Fund (CPF) for officers and employees of the Tea Board by amending the “Tea Act-1950.”
During the War of Independence in 1971, tea gardens suffered extensive damage. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman took various measures to rebuild the industry, establishing the “Bangladesh Tea Industries Management Committee (BTIMC)” after independence to rehabilitate post-war derelict tea plantations. By 1975, war-damaged abandoned plantations were handed over to the plantation owners. Bangabandhu secured loans from the “Industrial Development Bank of India” to rebuild destroyed tea factories and import machinery for the tea industry. The government provided cash subsidies and subsidized fertilizers to tea producers, measures that continue to this day. Bangabandhu ensured the welfare of tea workers, providing free housing, clean water, baby care centers, primary education, and rations. He upgraded the Bangladesh Tea Research Station to the Bangladesh Tea Research Institute (BTRI) in 1973.
To honor Bangabandhu’s contributions to the tea industry, June 4 was designated as “National Tea Day” starting from 2021. The National Tea Award Policy 2022 has been approved, and the first National Tea Awards were presented on June 4, 2023, recognizing 8 individuals/organizations in 8 categories for their significant contributions to the tea industry.
Tea Boosts Bangladesh’s Economy
In 2023, tea continued to play a vital role in bolstering Bangladesh’s economy. The country’s tea industry, primarily centered in regions like Sylhet and the Chittagong Hill Tracts, made substantial contributions to both employment and foreign exchange earnings. With a rich history of tea cultivation dating back to the British colonial era, Bangladesh’s tea sector thrived as a major export commodity. The cultivation, processing, and export of tea generated income for a significant portion of the population, supporting livelihoods in rural areas.
Moreover, the industry’s global recognition for producing high-quality tea enhanced Bangladesh’s standing in the international market. Tea exports soared to 1.4 million kg in 2023, compared to 0.78 million kg in 2022. As consumer preferences increasingly leaned towards specialty and organic teas, Bangladesh’s diverse tea offerings positioned it favorably. This, in turn, contributed to increased export revenue and strengthened the nation’s economic resilience. Overall, tea emerged as a cornerstone of Bangladesh’s economic landscape, fostering growth, employment, and international trade in 2023.
World’s Top Tea Producing Countries
Not every nation produces tea equally when it comes to the world market. While some countries excel in creating distinctive mixes and growing premium leaves, others lead the world in terms of sheer output volume. Whatever the situation, each has a unique and captivating tale that adds to the global fascination with tea.
According to the Farrer’s Tea and Coffee Merchants Journal, the top 10 nations that produce tea are now covered below:
In addition to those countries, Bangladesh is the 12th largest tea producer in the world.
In 2023, Bangladesh achieved an unprecedented milestone in tea production, generating a record-breaking 102.9 million kg from 168 gardens. This historic accomplishment, attributed to favorable conditions and strategic measures, marks the highest in the nation’s 170-year tea cultivation history, propelling Bangladesh to the 8th position globally. The remarkable growth underscores the industry’s resilience and the government’s commitment to the tea sector’s sustainable future.