Tea is commonly used as beverage in almost all over the world. Pakistan is the fourth largest tea importer in the world, after Russia, UK and Egypt. Pakistan has a market of over 140 to 170 million kg for black tea, which is imported from 21 countries including Kenya, Indonesia, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Black tea is the only kind of tea that is subject to international quality regulations.
To meet the demand, Pakistan imported tea worth $120 million in 1998-99, which rose to $210 million in 1999-00, showing an increase of over 65 per cent. Its imports were Rs9.611 billion in 2001-02, increased to Rs12.965 billion in 2006-07, Rs12.653 billion in 2007-08 and Rs17.417 billion in 2008-09. It further rose to Rs22.712 billion in 2009-10. The imports during the nine months, July-March 20010-11, were as high as Rs22.329 billion. It is estimated that at the end of this decade Pakistan would be the biggest buyer of black tea in the world.
The per capita consumption of tea in Pakistan is about one kilogram and is continuously increasing due to increase in demand. The average annual per capita consumption in the world is 0.75 kg. The average consumption in the US is 0.35 kg, Australia 2.7 kg, Iran 2.4 kg, Sri Lanka 1.45 kg, India 0.52 kg, China 0.3 kg, and Japan 0.94 kg and in Turkey it is 2.15 kg. About 170,000 tonnes tea was imported in 2010. The average annual tea imports come to Rs17.417 billion during 2008-09 that was a massive burden on the national exchequer.
The historical facts showed that tea was discovered around 5,000 years ago and supposed the oldest prepared beverage. Tea is available in black, green and yellow or in white colours, depending on how it was processed. The tea tree, under natural conditions, can reach up to 10 to 15 meters, but when it is cultivated in gardens its height is artificially limited to one meter only in order to facilitate the pickers. Tea trees are grown mainly in tropical and subtropical regions with humidity of 70 to 90 per cent. Rainfalls must be abundant with a yearly average of 1,500 to 2,500 millimeters.
Leaves can be picked by hand or mechanically. However, manual picking yields leaves are of higher quality. Imperial picking involves picking only the terminal bud (Pekoe) and the first leave. Fine picking involves picking the terminal bud and the first two leaves. Classical picking, the main technique being used today, includes the terminal bud plus three to four leaves. Tea is a most common beverage; its benefits are that it makes the body active, cure headache, giddiness and tiredness. It facilitates respiration, eases the brain and helps in strengthening the memory. It has been indicated in a research study of IC that tea helps in preventing cancer and filling of teeth cavities.
Tea can be grown in three main varieties: camellia sinensiss, camellia sinensis assamic and camellia seinensis cambodiensis. Botanically called Camella sinnensis, is found both in shrub and tree forms. This crop can be successfully grown in a wide range of climate in different parts of the world. Its plantation ranges from 42 N to 27 S and at altitude from sea level to 2000 meters. Tea growth required temperature should range from 12C to 30C. Temperatures below freezing and above 35C greatly hamper the tea growth. It is usually grown on sloping land. However, it can be grown on plains with good drainage. The water requirement of tea is comparatively higher than other crops.
Tea is a perennial crop. It takes four to six years to mature and crop life is between 80 to 100 years. Tea is a high return per acre crop that is higher than other agronomic crops. Yield per acre varies from field to field, in India; yield per acre is about 450 kg. One plant produces about 70 kg of black tea in a year. In warm climate, the plant is plucked in four years with the production period of 50 years. In countries like Sri Lanka having favourable production climate, tea plant is plucked every 5 to 10 days. In other countries like China and Japan’s plucking interval is between 70 to 90 days.
Being a perennial crop, it covers the soil round the year thus helps in increasing the storage life of dams and other water reservoirs. In hilly areas it can also act as sanctuary for wild life as it can be a good shelter for various wild life species and needs very little care.
Tea prices in Pakistan have increased almost six times since 1990-91. The price of a tea packet of 250 kg was available in Rs20 that increased to Rs54 in 2000-01, Rs62 in 2004-05, Rs68 in 2006-07, Rs98 in 2008-09 and Rs119 during 2009-10. Now 200gm packet is available at Rs114 in Karachi market. It is estimated that out of the total 200,000 tonnes of consumption, about 50 per cent is smuggled under the cover of ATT.
Pakistan imports around 65 per cent tea from Kenya, while it is also imported from Bangladesh, Brazil, India, Uganda and some other African countries. In addition, tea is smuggled via the borders of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.
Tea smuggling is the main problem that is not only hurting genuine tea importers but also depriving national exchequer. For instance, during 2006 about 48,000 tonnes of tea was brought illegally in the country as compared to 40,000 tonnes in FY05, causing a revenue loss of Rs2 billion. The tea smuggling further increased to 100,000 tonnes in 2009-10.
Tea cultivation in Pakistan
For tea cultivation some areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were found suitable that include the districts of Mansehra, Batagram, Shangla and Swat. In these areas 1.5 lakh acre of land has been declared suitable for tea cultivation.
To grow tea domestically many efforts have been made to cultivate it in the mountainous areas but could succeed. Now three private companies have planned to grow tea over an area of 17,000 acres in Khyber PK and AJK, which would be given on lease for a period of 30 to 40 years to the investors who intended to invest Rs4.5 billion. Out of the three tea importing companies, two companies have managed to acquire 1,000 acres each in AJK at lease for 30 years. The National Tea Research Institute, Shinkiari, was to provide saplings.
Although NTRI was established in 1970 but after lapsing 30 years the desired results could not be achieved. Only 1,350 acres were brought under plantation by institute. On the other hand, to fulfill domestic demand about 170,000 acres are needed to be brought under cultivation.
Tea plantation in AJK
The AJK government has leased out 3,000 acres of forest land to a group of three companies for 15 years for tea cultivation in the area. The land had been leased out against Rs600,000 per annum. The group of tea plantation was to invest about Rs1.5 billion over the next five years in the AJK, east of Muzaffarabad city. The project has a potential of producing over 100 million kg of tea per annum.
The group would train and encourage local farmers to set up tea sapling nurseries in their holdings on a guaranteed buy back agreement basis. The group would also establish tea processing units after tea plantations were set up in the area at large scale. These units would buy all the raw green leaf produced by the private farmers in the area.
The tea cultivation is a labour intensive activity; it would generate employment opportunities and can reduce poverty in the tea growing areas.
Besides, it is estimated that a farmer can earn up to Rs80,000 per year from tea cultivation on one kanal of land, which is many times more than the income from any other crop. It was planned that tea farmers could also get interest free loans from the scheduled banks under the policy of the federal government.
Plan to reduce tea import bill
To reduce the tea import bill that is more than Rs22 billion, the government has decided to commercialise tea production by starting a Rs890 million public-private partnership programme. The project was to be launched in the northern areas of the KP and AJK. According to the plan, tea plantation would be done on 4,000 acres by the private sector, 800 acres by the KP extension department, 200 acres by the AJK extension department and 50 acres in FATA.
There are many constraints in tea cultivation such as climate and frequency of rainfall, type of land, degree of slope of land, availability of inputs like seed and fertilisers and the untrained labour. Tea cultivation is not possible in Punjab and Sindh due to the above reasons.
Due to small holdings the farmers are reluctant to grow tea because it is a long duration crop takes seven to eight years to reach complete yielding stage. Therefore, they prefer short duration crops like vegetables, maize, rice and wheat etc. that provide quick return to meet their daily life expenditures. Most of the farmers are very poor while tea requires some investment for its cultural practices such as weeding, fertilisation and irrigation etc. Thus investment on tea and poverty of the farmers are one of the big hurdles for tea cultivation in Pakistan.
The Zarai Taraqiati Bank (ZTBL) facilitates the farmers by providing Rs60,000 in three installments, free of interest for the first four years, which do not meet the requirements of this crop. The interest rate is very high i.e. nine per cent, which would be charged after four years while the crop reaches complete yielding stage after seven to eight years. The amount of loan is not only insufficient but also further increases the burden on the growers.
Moreover, the procedure getting loan is too complicated for a poor and illiterate farmer. The loan provision is limited to only two acres plantation.
If government is sincere, it should announce attractive incentives for private companies and individuals. The tea research institutes should provide technical know-how to private sectors for plantation. The loan amount should be increased and the repayment should be extended from existing 4th to 9th year. Similarly, the loan procedure should be simplified and the limitation should be increased beyond two acres so that block plantation could be encouraged on common farmer’s fields. Tea production can be enhanced either by increasing the acreage or by boosting yields through management practices. The acreage can only be increased if farmers know better techniques and have credibility that their harvest would be lifted without difficulty.