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Local tea industry growth at risk

Published : 16 Aug 2022 08:56 PM

The Bangladesh Tea Association stated that although the daily wage of labor in tea gardens is said to be much lower, a worker gets wages and benefits amounting to at least Tk 400 per day.

In addition to daily cash wages, direct benefits include overtime, annual leave allowance, festival leave allowance, sick leave allowance, provident fund allowance, work attendance allowance, administrative allowance on provident fund, totaling almost twice the average daily wage in cash.

According to Bangladesh Tea Association, numerous benefits amounting to Tk 175 per day are being provided to the workers to ensure social development and civic benefits. 

In Bangladesh, there are approximately 168 commercial tea production farms employing about 1.5 lakh people. Furthermore, Bangladesh contributes about 3 percent of global tea production. According to stats from 2021, the Bangladeshi tea market is valued roughly Tk 3500 crore, and the industry contributes approximately 1 percent to the GDP.

A total of 168 tea estates in Sylhet and Chittagong are allegedly losing daily tea leaves worth more than Tk 20 crores due to the recent workers' movement in the full season time of tea production. 

To ensure food security, 42.46 kg of rice or wheat ration per month is provided to workers at the rate of Tk 2 per kg through subsidy from the plantation owners. Moreover, about 94200 bighas of land has been allocated for agricultural use of the workers with the aim of strengthening the food security of the workers. 

As a 190-year-old industry, tea industry in Bangladesh complies with labor laws quite strictly. Women workers are getting 16 weeks of paid maternity leave to ensure their health. 

Housing for workers is built on a total of 5800 bighas of land, with each employee receiving a residence complying with agreed standards. A total of 891 medical personnel are employed in 02 big size group hospitals and 84 garden hospitals with 721 beds and 155 dispensers to provide worker health protection. Where there is no hospital, local government and private medical practitioners provide regular service. 

A total of 768 primary, junior, and high schools have been established to ensure quality education for workers' children, with 44,171 students presently receiving free education from 1,232 teachers.

Furthermore, comprehensive financial aid is offered to retire employees through allowance, different labor welfare programs such as clean drinking water, anti-malaria medication, hygienic toilets, assistance during religious and cultural festivals and so on. Also, after the retirement of a tea worker, other members of his/her family will be employed as a tea worker, which is included in a tea worker's contract.

It should be mentioned that, since 2012, the auction price of tea has increased by 0.16 percent , but tea workers' incomes have increased by 94.20 percent. The tea industry is an import substitution industry with more than 90 percent of the annual production being consumed domestically. Any disruption in production will result in imports and the expenditure of scarce dollar resources at this critical time.