Sohel Parvez – Paragon Agro, a concern of Paragon Group, plans to cultivate organic tea, aiming to exploit the growing consumer demand for the product in domestic and global markets. “Everybody demands organic food. That is why we are preparing to organically grow tea. We are now readying our garden to accomplish the mission,” said Moshiur Rahman, chief of a poultry hatchery and feed based entity of the Paragon Group. Paragon Agro, which stepped into the domestic market with eggs, mushrooms and poultry meat under the brand Tatka, is expected to be the second local firm to market “Organic Tea”, also under the brand Tatka. Paragon plans to grow tea using organic means, as the demand for the drink is on a steady rise due to growing health consciousness among the middle-income urban consumers. People like to drink the organic variety of the tea, despite its relatively higher price. At present, KK Tea, produced by Kazi & Kazi Tea Estate Ltd, is the country’s lone organic tea brand. An 80-gram tea pack of KK Tea, containing 40 bags, costs Tk 70 at the retail level, while a 100-gram pack of Ispahani tea, containing 50 bags, costs Tk 48. Paragon Agro will be the second organic tea maker after Kazi & Kazi Tea Estate, a concern of the Gemcon Group. Kazi & Kazi ventured into organic tea plantations by taking up a project in the country’s northwestern border belt of Tetulia, Panchagarh in 2000, to attract consumers in both the local and global markets. Kazi & Kazi markets tea in the global market under the brand Tetulia.
The export of tea is on the downturn in recent months, but local consumption remains vibrant, helping to sustain the country’s tea industry and providing employment for about 8,00,000 people, directly or indirectly. In 2007-08, the total domestic consumption of tea stood at 48.26 million kilograms, out of the 58.83 million kilograms production. A decade ago, total internal consumption was 24.45 million kilograms, according the Bangladesh Tea Board. Despite huge domestic consumption, Kazi & Kazi Tea has the capacity to produce only about 2.4 lakh kilograms of tea a year and the entry of Paragon Agro is expected to add about 1 lakh kilograms on a yearly basis, in the organic tea segment. “We expect to introduce our tea by the end of 2010. We will focus both on the domestic and global markets,” said the Paragon Group top official.
“Even though we eye international markets, our primary focus will be the local consumers,” he said. According to Paragon chief, organic tea will be grown on one of their two tea estates –Hajinagar Tea Estate at Maulavibazar. “We have not been administering chemical fertilisers for the last three years. We will observe the garden for another year,” Moshiur Rahman said. “On government approval, the product would then be put on the market.” The Paragon Group secured turnover worth about Tk 400 crore in the fiscal year 2007-08. Setting up of a processing factory next year is now the the group’s plan, Rahman said. “We will follow orthodox measures to produce organic tea,” he said.