Tea Gardens In Bangladesh
Tea gardens of Bangladesh is very popular. Bangladesh is one of the few countries in South Asia, which remains to be explored. The area around Sylhet is traditional tea growing area. The picturesque Surma Valley is covered with terraces of tea gardens and lush green tropical forests. Srimangal is known as the tea capital of Bangladesh and for miles around one can see the green carpet of tea gardens on the hill slopes.
The area has over 150 tea gardens including three of the largest tea gardens in the world both in area and production. Nearly 300,000 workers are employed on the tea estates of which over 75% are women. Employers prefer to engage women for plucking tea leaves since they do a better job and are paid less than the men. A visit to the tea plantation in Sylhet is a memorable experience. The gardens are relics from the days of the British Raj. The plantations were started by the British and the manager still live in white timber homes as they did in those days. The bungalows stand on huge beautifully maintained lawns and the service and lifestyle is pretty much unchanged.
The humus content in the soil here is more than in the traditional tea-growing areas of Sylhet. The tea produced in Panchagarh is supposedly much better in quality than that of Sylhet. Several nurseries have been set up in Panchagarh and Thakurgaon to supply high quality saplings to the tea gardens. This promises to be a good avenue of employment for the locals and chances of increased exports of tea. As of now Bangladesh exports tea to Pakistan and Russia. This may soon reach wider markets and become everyone’s cup of tea. Tea is an important export item in bangladesh. Bangladesh ranks tenth among the ten largest tea-producing and exporting countries in the world. In the year 2000, the country’s tea production was 1.80% of the 2,939.91 million kg produced worldwide. Most of the 163 tea estates in Bangladesh are located in the North-eastern region of Bangladesh-Maulvi Bazar, Hobiganj, Sylhet, Brahmanbaria districts. There are a few number of tea estates in Panchagar District and in Chittagong,a South-eastern district.
Most of the tea estates are located in the northeast region of Bangladesh. The first tea garden was established by the Duncan Brothers. Since then all the tea gardens have been established by clearing jungles. Those who did the jungle clearing were non-locals brought by Duncan from Assam, Bihar, Madras, Orissa and other places in India. At present, the total number of tea estates are 163 and the total number of tea factories are 114. The total garden area is 115,629.76 ha. The tea gardens is a huge source of revenue for the government of Bangladesh. History of Bangladesh tea industry dates back to around 1823 when tea started to be grown for commercial purposes in the Assam forests.
Tea plantation in Bengal developed concurrently with that in the northeastern part of India during the early nineteenth century. In 1855, the Assam indigenous tea plant was established in Chandghani Hills of Sylhet. Near about the same time, wild tea was found among Khasiand Jainta Hills. Around 1840, tea plantation started in Chittagong. The first commercial tea gardens plantation was established in 1857 in Mulnichera in Sylhet. The Sylhet valley is formed by a beautiful, winding pair of rivers named the Surma and the Kushiara both of which are fed by innumerable hill streams from the north and the south. The valley has good number of haors which are big natural depressions. During winter these haors are vast stretches of green land, but in the rainy season they turn into turbulent seas.
Bangladesh has 163 tea gardens (including seven in Panchagarh where tea cultivation started only recently) with 36 of them considered “sick.” The maximum daily cash pay for the daily rated worker in 2008 was Taka 32.50 (less than half a US$). This is a miserable pay having a severe effect on the daily lives of the tea workers. Although the workers get rations at a concession, a family can hardly have decent food items on their plate.
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