BSS, RANGPUR – Aug 26 : Small-scale tea farming is becoming popular in Panchagarh villages and adjoining districts bringing fortunes to the small and marginal farmers by changing their overall socio-economic conditions. The tea sector might prompt faster economic advancements of the common people, farmers as well as working women in future, as the small and marginal farmers have been showing more interests in farming the cash crop in the sub- Himalayan areas. Local farmers and experts opined for further government assistance, setting up more tea processing industries, competitive markets for tealeaves and resolving some problems like power crisis for accelerating further growth of the tea sector. Side by side with the common people, hundreds of working women are now changing their fate and achieving self-reliance by earning wages as plucking workers in the tea gardens of the officially recognised third tea zone of the country.
At present, nearly 7,000 skilled and unskilled workers, mostly women, have been working in about 260 tea gardens, including 18 big estates, 13 medium-size and 229 small-scale gardens set up on about 2,200 acres of land in Panchagarh alone. Small-scale tea growers are now happier as the tea processing factories of Tetulia Tea Company Ltd (TTCL) and Karotoa Tea Garden started purchasing green tealeaves at Taka 11 per kg though the rate was only Taka 9.50 last year. As per a survey conducted by Bangladesh Tea Board (BTB), there is over 16,000 hectares land suitable for tea farming in Panchagarh alone and nearly 2,200 acres have so far been brought under tea farming in the area since 2002. Tea farming is being expanded every year in Panchagarh and its adjoining areas following huge growing interests among the farmers and small-scale and marginal farmers ushering brighter prospects of the sector there.
In Panchagarh, most of the tea gardens are smaller in sizes and many people, including small-scale and marginal farmers, have been cultivating tea in their own lands and selling the green tealeaves to the processing factories and companies. The BTB has taken necessary steps, including finding newer areas for tea farming, with a view to further expanding tea farming areas and increasing tea production in the country to meet its growing local demand and increase exports. “More areas have been identified in Panchagarh, Thakurgaon and surrounding areas in the sub-Himalayan region suitable for tea farming because of soil composition, climatic conditions and weather,” BTB officials said.
“There are tremendous prospects of expanding tea sector and creating job opportunities to enhance economic activities further in the region, President of Panchagarh Chamber of Com-merce and Industry, Iqbal Kaiser Mintu, said. Tea is being cultivated mostly in the area on a ‘small-scale gardening basis’ and this concept has been attracting the small, medium and marginal farmers more and more that further brightens the prospects of tea farming. Small-scale tea farmer Mozahedul Hassan while talking to BSS recently said he has been farming tea in seven bighas land after selecting 20 bighas for the purpose and lifting 90 to 100 kg tealeaves every week from the garden. Small-scale tea farmers Ab-dur Rahman, Esahaq Ali Mondol, Golam Kibria and Mosta-fa Jamal and Motiar Rahman and female workers Mohsina, Bulbuli Begum, Aklima and Morsheda said that tea farming was getting firm footing in the area.