The growing tea sector has been boosting fast, changing the overall socio-economic condition of the common people and economy of Panchagarh and predicting a brighter prospect of tea sector there. Local tea growers, chamber leaders and officials recommended setting up of more tea processing industries, competitive markets for tea, and resolving problems like gas supply and power crisis to accelerate boosting of the tea sector. At the same time, hundreds of Panchagarh females, who lived in utter miseries due to abject poverty, are now changing their fates and achieving self-reliance by earning wages as plucking workers in the tea gardens. The boosting tea sector has ushered in a new hope for further enhancing the standard of their socio-economic life and women empowerment if some problems, including just wages, were resolved, a number of female workers said. Presently, more than 7,000 skilled and unskilled workers, mostly women, are working in 246 tea gardens, including 18 big estates, 13 medium-sized and 215 small-scale gardens set up on more than 2,200 acres of land in Tentulia and its surrounding areas. Nearly 2,300 workers, mostly women, are working at the giant Kazi and Kazi Tea Estate which has earned reputation at home and abroad by producing the famous Mina Organic Tea and earning foreign exchange. Small-scale tea farmer Mozahedul Hassan told the news agency that he had been farming tea in seven-Bigha land after selecting 20 Bighas for the purpose and lifting 100 kg tea leaves every week from his garden. ‘I am selling tea leaves at Tk 11 per kg to the tea processing factory of Tentulia Tea Company Ltd and earning almost no profit because of the lower prices and I had to sell the same at only Tk 9.50 per kg last year,’ he added. Small-scale tea farmers, Abdur Rahman, Esahaq Ali Mandal, Raju Mia and Motiar Rahman of different villages in Tentulia and Sadar upazilas expressed similar views and demanded green tea-leave price at Tk 15 per kg. The development officer of Panchagarh Regional Tea Board, Amir Hossain, said there were tremendous scopes for expansion of tea farming in Panchagarh and Bangladesh Tea Board had been providing trainings and supports to the farmers. ‘The total tea production by the major companies like the TTCL, KKTE and Kartoa Tea Associates Ltd might be more than five lakh tonnes this year in Panchagarh district,’ officials said on Monday. Assistant manager of TTCL Manjur Hassan said smooth supply of 220-volt power with stable voltage could further help processing and producing tea, and tea production costs might reduce substantially if natural gas was supplied to the area. According to local officials of the BTB, the government has taken steps for forming newer Tea Zones for further increase of tea production in the country to meet the growing demand. The Bangladesh Small Tea Garden Owners’ Association has been working relentlessly for further development of tea sector in Panchagarh by resolving all prevailing problems including the wage problems of female workers. Labourers Fuli Begum, Aklima, Marium, Rozina, and Halima of different villages in Tentulia upazila told the news agency that they should get at least Tk 100 per day as wages against the present rate of Tk 60. There are no rules regarding eight-hour working period, issuing of appointment letters, minimum wages, overtime payments, leave, labour law, medicare facilities, maintenance of register books, and safety and security of workers, they added. BSTGOA president Amirul Haque Khokan said the prevailing problems were being discussed with the authorities concerned to attract more investors from all over the country for further boosting the tea sector in Panchagarh.