BSS, Rangpur – Increased tea farming is bringing economic solvency to the people, especially empowering the distressed women in the district, with a positive change in their life and living ushering in a new hope for their future generations. Over the recent years, farmers at all levels side by side with big investors have been showing their utmost interest in tea farming, now considered as a cash crop in the sub-Himalayan district. Tea production has been increasing continuously, prompting a faster growth of the sector in changing the socio-economic condition of common people, including the small and marginal farmers as well as the poor women. After the recent prolonged drought, as mush as 175 mm rainfall over the week helped the tender tea plants grow excellent in all the gardens in the district, farmers and officials told BSS today. The recent drought had a temporary adverse affect on the normal growth of the tender tea leaves, newly pruned branches and saplings, but the plants are now regaining their full strength wearing a greenish look.
The growers, workers, chamber leaders and local experts said tea plantation could be further expanded in the district and its adjoining areas with setting up of more tea processing industries, competitive markets for tea leaves and resolving problems facing this sector in this area. Presently, nearly 7,000 skilled and unskilled workers, mostly housewives, widows, divorcees and unemployed young girls, have been working in 264 small, 18 medium-sized and eight huge tea estates on an area of 2,200 acres in Panchagarh district.According to the officials, the growing tea sector is predicting the economy’s further enhancement with increased empowerment of women, as hundreds of distressed females are gradually becoming self-reliant by earning their bread and butter from tea gardens and sending their children to schools. The small-scale tea growers are now not incurring losses as the tea processing factories of Tentulia Tea Company Ltd and Karotoa Tea Garden in Panchagarh have been purchasing green tea leaves at Taka 11 per kg against their demand of Taka 15 per kg. According to a survey of Bangladesh Tea Board, there are 16,000 hectares of land suitable for tea farming in Panchagarh alone and many more in Thakurgaon though only 2,200 acres have so far been brought under tea farming there since 2002. Most of the Panchagarh tea gardens are small in sizes and owned by the small-scale and marginal farmers, who have been cultivating tea on their own lands and selling green tea leaves to the local processing factories and companies.
President of Panchagarh Chamber of Commerce and Industry Iqbal Kaiser and Convener of Bangladesh Small Tea Garden Owners’ Association Amirul Haque said the tea plantation could be further expanded to enhance economic activities in the area. Tea is being cultivated mostly in small-scale gardening basis and this concept has been attracting the small, medium and marginal farmers further brightening the prospects of tea farming in the area, they said. Tea farmers Mozahedul Hassan, Abdur Rahman, Esahaq Ali, Mostafa Jamal Raju and Motiar Rahman told BSS that tea farming would see a further expansion in the area if the green leaves are purchased at Taka 15 per kg. Women workers Fahima Begum, Fuli Begum, Aklima Khatun, Rojina Begum, and Halima of Tentulia said they are getting only Taka 40 to 60 per day salary depending on the quantity of plucked green tea leaves. There is no fixed daily wages for us, they said. They said issues like fixing the minimum daily wages and working period, appointment letters, overtime payment, leave, medical facilities, maintenance of register books and safety and security for the labourers are yet to be resolved. Despite these problems, the women workers said they were now well-off, using sanitary latrines, drinking pure water, preventing child marriages and dowry and taking care of health by dint of their earnings from the tea gardens. Harunur Rashid of Mohananda Tea Garden stressed the need for arranging adequate irrigation facilities to provide water during the droughts to the tea gardens.