Bangladesh currently has a tea market worth Tk3,500 crore annually, and the most important fact about this industry is that more than 50% of their workers are women, Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi said on Wednesday.
Tea cultivation first began in the country 180 years ago. Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman served as the first Bangali chairman of the then Tea Board from 4 June 1957 to 23 October 1958.
To pay homage to Bangabandhu's contribution to the tea industry, the government has declared 4 June as the "National Tea Day," Tipu Munshi announced at a virtual press conference, held to facilitate the successful celebration of this upcoming annual event.
Bangladesh will observe the day for the first time and a celebration will be held at the Osmani Memorial Auditorium to mark this occasion, said the minister, adding that various programmes will be organised and different types of tea leafs will be showcased there.
Mentioning the industry's employment of a large number of women workers, Tipu Munshi said, "There are around 1.4 lakh workers in this sector, and more than half of them are women.
"Alongside their wages, the workers get rations, accommodation, education and healthcare facilities. Currently a tea industry worker makes Tk120 per day. We are thinking about increasing their wages after holding discussions with all stakeholders."
Addressing the conference, Bangladesh Tea Board's Chairman Maj Gen Md Jahirul Islam said, "4 June is a very important day for the tea industry. We initially thought about celebrating the event for the first time at a tea garden in Panchagarh, but Covid-19 has made this impossible."
The minister added that the board has launched a school for tea farmers to train them. Moreover, farmers can also avail loans with a 4% interest rate.
Commenting on tea prices, he said Panchagarh's deputy commissioner is involved in the process of setting up tea leaf prices, but a handful of factories are jacking up the prices anyway.
Commerce Ministry's Senior Secretary Md Jafar Uddin also spoke at the press conference among others.
A colonial power established the tea industry in Bangladesh nearly 200 years ago. The industry has since then matured into an important part of the country's financial sector.
According to the Bangladesh Tea Board, the country was producing around 2.3 crore kilograms of tea following its independence, but its 167 tea gardens produced 8.63 crore kilograms of tea in 2020.