The government is set to establish a tea processing plant in the northern district of Panchagar, aiming to create a level playing field for all the tea planters, sources said.
They said the initiative has been taken to ensure fair price for the tea farmers, especially the small-scale tea gardeners.
A three-member committee, led by a joint secretary of the commerce ministry, has already visited the region recently and viewed that a tea processing factory could be established in Panchagar district under the government initiative.
According to the committee report, it would create an open and fair competition between the state-owned and private sector tea factories and will protect the interest of the small-scale tea planters.
Besides, the report said, there is a huge demand for a processing plant from the stakeholders, including the farmers.
The members of the committee inspected six small-scale tea gardens during the visit and sat for an exchange of views meeting with the tea producers.
They informed the committee that they have to take serial numbers 15-20 days ahead of selling their green tea leaves. By then, the green tea leaves grow bigger. As a result, they said, the private factory owners do not pay fair price for the bigger leaves - they often cut 50 per cent of the actual price.
They (farmers) also alleged that the factory owners harass them in different ways and deprive them of fair prices.
When contacted, president of Bangladesh small tea gardeners' association Amirul Haque Khokon said, "Some tea processing factories were supposed to be established in the country's third tea hub under the government initiative as desired by the Prime Minister. But, it has not been implemented yet due to negligence of Bangladesh Tea Board."
It would be a milestone initiative if a tea processing factory under the government initiative could be built in the northern region, he added.
He also mentioned that the price fixing committee of tea is not working at the desired level and the monitoring activities are not being done properly.
"We will submit our opinion to the commerce secretary in accordance with the field visit. Bangladesh Tea Board will start construction works of the proposed tea processing factory subject to approval of the commerce minister," a senior official of the commerce ministry told the FE on Sunday.
Small-scale commercial cultivation of tea in the region started in 2000 and is expanding every year in Panchagarh and adjoining districts of Thakurgaon, Nilphamari, Dinajpur and Lalmonirhat, changing the region's economic situation, said the farmers concerned.
Small-scale gardening or tea farming has been proved highly profitable in the region. Besides, tea cultivation brings fortune to many farmers and creates employment opportunities for the poor in the areas.
Lands for tea cultivation increased rapidly in the area. In 2002, tea cultivation began only with 455 acres which currently increased to 7,645 acres.
There are 27 registered/unregistered tea gardens in Panchagarh and adjoining Thakurgaon, Nilphamari, Dinajpur and Lalmonirhat districts. Besides, there are 5,000 small-scale tea gardens.
The production of tea was only 0.16 million Kg in 2005 and increased to 8.46 million kg in the last calendar year (2018) in the country's northern tea hub.
There are 26 tea processing factories in Panchagarh and its adjoining districts. Of the factories, some 18 are active, two closed down and six remain under construction.
The production capacity of the 18 tea processing factories would be over 18.39 million Kg annually. On the other hand, some 8.46 million kg tea has been produced in the 13 factories in 2018, according to BTB.
According to the BTB data, Bangladesh produced around 82.13 million kg in 166 tea gardens in 2018, much higher than the 72.39 million kg of annual production target.
In 2018, an estimated 90.45 million kg of tea was consumed and 0.65 million kg of tea was exported.
Currently, the country's tea production stood, on an average, at 1,320 kg per hectare by using 50 per cent of the land, according to a latest quarterly review of Bangladesh Bank.
The domestic demand for tea is rising rapidly due to urbanisation, a change in consumer taste along with the population growth.