Keep the tea industry open during the next lockdown


The tea industry has always played an important role in Bangladesh’s economy, reducing poverty in remote areas, including mountainous areas, and generating export income, according to insiders. COLLECTION

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The tea industry has always played an important role in Bangladesh’s economy, reducing poverty in remote areas, including mountainous areas, and generating export income, according to insiders. COLLECTION

The owners of tea gardens in Bangladesh have urged the government to keep the industry out of the scope of the strict national lockdown from July 23.

They made the request in a letter to the cabinet secretary on Thursday afternoon, saying closing their operations for such an extended period would result in huge losses for the industry.

Following an unprecedented rise in coronavirus-related deaths across the country, the government has decided to impose a 14-day lockdown in an effort to reduce the rate of infection.

Executives of the Bangladesh Tea Association, a platform of garden owners, said they had increased demand so that the country’s largest industry could continue production and keep promises made to domestic and international buyers.

The tea industry has always played an important role in the economy of Bangladesh, reducing poverty in remote areas, including mountainous areas, and generating export income.

The industry provides direct employment opportunities for around six lakh people, many of whom have made their homes in the tea gardens themselves, while another five lakh people are indirectly involved in marketing or other services.

In 2020, Bangladesh produced 86.39 million kilograms of tea valued at 1,631 Tk crore, of which 2.18 million kilograms valued at Tk 34 crore were exported.

Even though similar closures took place last year, the tea plantations were allowed to operate under the prime minister’s directive.

Another argument for keeping the industry open is that those who work on the plantations adhere to all occupational health safety guidelines.

However, as soon as they are out of work, they start breaking those rules by going to different places, according to the garden owners.

So, if these establishments are closed, the risk of the spread of Covid-19 becomes higher, they said.

Additionally, if the tea leaves are left to rot, orders will be canceled. In addition, the possibilities of repaying bank loans will also be reduced, they added.

Mr. Shah Alam, president of the Bangladesh Tea Association, said now is the peak season for the industry.

“We counted the losses in the off-season. So if the industry stays closed for two weeks it will go bankrupt,” he said.

“So our request is to keep the tea industry open even though there are restrictions on everything else.”

The association represents 146 tea gardens in the greater Sylhet and Chattogram, the two main producing regions of the popular drink.

There are 167 tea gardens in Bangladesh.


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