Import bill and tea cultivation

According to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, tea imports from July-February 2021-22 were recorded at $423.466 million against the imports of $379.314 million during July-February 2020-21, which shows a substantial increase of 11.64 percent in the consumption of this nonessential commodity in the country. The report revealed that the tea imports increased by 3.62 percent during the period under review as these went up from 171,469 metric tons in 2020 to 177,671 metric tons in 2021. On a year-on-year basis, tea imports increased by 59.56 percent during February 2022 as compared to the same month of last year, while on monthly basis the tea import bill for the month of February 2022 stood at $68.886 million against the imports of $43.172 million in February 2021.

Tea beverages are very popular in Pakistani society and a significant portion of our Community has addicted to this transient enjoyment and leisure hobby. As inflation grew several times high in recent months, the prices of tea leaves also skyrocketed, and the import bill for tea leaves marked over a 50% increase as compared to the same period in 2021. Historically, there was no tea cultivation in Pakistan in the past and the country was solely dependent on the import of tea leaves from Kenya, Malaysia, and Bangladesh. The domestic cultivation of tea was started in the early 1960s, and a pilot project was launched by the Pakistan Agriculture Research Institute that paved the path for the establishment of the National Tea and High-Value Crops Research Institute (NTHRI) at Shinkyari Mansehra for large-scale production and processing of tea leaves in the country. A processing factory and other infrastructure were established in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa during the 1990s. However, with the passage of time, the successive government in the Center and the Province did not assign due priority to the promotion of tea cultivation, and this important endeavor could not get achieve its objectives so far.

Realistically, the country has an abundance of talent, raw materials, and natural resources, along with diverse weather conditions, hence it lacks the sincerity of leaders and loyalty of bureaucracy who always enjoy hefty packages but never fulfill their responsibilities. If the government focuses on such a self-reliance initiative it not only can save valuable reserves but also boost its foreign trade in the future.