Ambassador Zhang Jun, President Tijjani Mohammed, Excellencies.
I thank Ambassador Zhang and FAO for organizing today’s special event.
As an avid tea-lover, and coming from a tea-loving and producing country, I am delighted to join today’s meeting to celebrate the first International Tea Day. We commend China’s efforts to highlight the significance of tea in our lives and livelihoods, and for attaining sustainable development.
And, as we all grapple with the COVID crisis, it is comforting to see that tea has emerged as a useful preventive drink.
Tea – or Cha, as we call it – is more than a drink for us; tea is central to our social ethos. The tea industry in Bangladesh goes back over 150 years, and in fact, today’s Bangladesh was part of the tea route connecting the subcontinent with China’s tea-growing Yunan region. Tea came from China to our part of the world. We produce high quality tea, and it is an important cash crop of Bangladesh and contributes significantly to the economy. We have 172 commercial tea gardens, employing over 4 million workers, with a large majority of them being women, thus contributing to their economic empowerment. We were a major tea exporting country, but as our domestic tea consumption started growing, we have now become an importer as well. A key priority for us now, is to increase production capacity.
In our efforts to diversify our tea sector, we are looking at the multiple and innovative uses of tea including using it for the production of other items. We are exploring means to boost production, and at the same time, looking to innovate and create new varieties of tea including species resistant to pests and climate change impacts such as droughts and floods and for ensuring a sustainable environment. Tea is being produced organically without any chemical fertilizers and pesticides. And we have also started producing green and orthodox teas alongside the more popular black tea. Some of the new varieties have a growing international market.
Like all other sectors, the tea industry would also bear the brunt of the Covid pandemic. With fall in exports and consumption, the industry will suffer, and would impact the tea plantation workers. The tea plantation workers have their own community; and they represent a unique culture, heritage and way of life, which may come under threat from the pandemic. They would need to be nurtured, protected and supported.
My Government’s “Development Roadmap: [for the] Bangladesh Tea Industry” is a comprehensive plan for the development of the sector, with measures to increase investment; as well as protocols for improving the living standards of the tea workers. We are keen to collaborate with other tea-producing countries for the development of this sector.
To conclude, as we observe the first International Tea Day, let us pledge to collaborate closely to invest in research and technology for the further growth and development of the tea industry.
Happy International Tea Day!
I thank you.