The Covid-19 pandemic affected tea business severely across the country as the main selling spots like hotels, restaurants and roadside stalls were closed due to the general holidays put in force to contain the spread of virus.
As a result, a huge amount of tea piled up in the warehouses of the tea gardens.
Garden owners were even fearing a wastage of a large amount of tea due to the situation.
But the situation has changed since the withdrawal of the general holidays as tea sales have picked up in full swing. People concerned are even thinking that tea production has fallen short of the demand.
Munir Ahmed, deputy director (planning) of Bangladesh Tea Board, said, "Around 80 percent of the tea market in Bangladesh is dependent on tea shops, hotels and restaurants. These places are the gathering points of most of the consumers."
"Due to the pandemic, the sales of tea had decreased alarmingly in these places. But after the shutdown, everything is back to normal," he added.
According to the Tea Board, tea production has declined this year after a record harvest last year.
Till September this year, the production has been 60.89 million kg. In the first 10 months of last year, the production was 70.93 million kg.
The Tea Board said the target will be achieved this year even if the production has been a bit less due to the weather. This year the production target is 70.59 million kg.
Tea traders said a large amount of tea was lying in the warehouses during the first few months of the pandemic, which caused frustration in the industry. Now the business is back to normal, but sales are still lower if compared to last year.
Kajal Hazra, director of the Srimangal Padma Tea Supply Store, said, "Fears that tea sales would decline this year compared to last year are no more since the withdrawal of the shutdown. On the contrary, the prices of tea have gone up this year as compared to last year due to low production. Tea stored in the warehouses did not go waste as there was sufficient demand."
Fears that tea sales would decline this year compared to last year are no more since the withdrawal of the shutdown. On the contrary, the prices of tea have gone up this year as compared to last year due to low production.
"Tea prices are unlikely to fall this season; and if production increases next season, tea prices will fall," he added.
Saiful Islam, proprietor of Faim Enterprise, said, "The tea market has been good since August. Before that, it was too bad. At present, the condition of the market is satisfactory."
Piyush Kanti, general manager of Nahar Tea Garden, said, "In April, about 30,000 kg of tea was stored in my warehouse. I could not sell that for lack of buyers. Now I have overcome the situation."
According to GM Shibli, president of Bangladesh Tea Sangsad Sylhet Valley, tea sales had fallen three times due to Covid-19.
Ahsan Habib, marketing officer of Bangladesh Tea Board, said, "Last season (April 2019 to March 2020), 90.44 million kg of tea was sold at 45 auctions in Chattogram and Srimangal with an average price of Tk176.08 per kg. This season (till July) six auctions have been held in Chattogram and three in Srimangal. And 6.66 million kg tea has been sold in these auctions at a price of Tk155 per kg on average."
"However, since August, the auction activities have gained momentum and the participation of buyers has increased," he added.
Buyers attendance at the auction centres during the first few months of Covid-19 at the beginning of this year was very low. But their presence has gradually increased since the lockdown was lifted.
Jahar Tarafdar, member secretary of Tea Planters and Traders Association of Bangladesh (TPTAB), said, "At present, more tea is being sold at auction than before."
Tea traders hope that tea sales in the present rate would continue in the country in the coming days amid the fear of the second wave of the pandemic.
Sirajul Islam, manager of Hamidia Tea Garden, said, "Last year, we produced 185,000 kg of tea. By May, 25,000 kg of tea was stockpiled in my warehouse although the production was a little less this year. The reason was lack of customers. Now that the market situation has changed, tea sales have become normal."