Pakistan Research Program Encourages Local Tea Industry

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan

Pakistan is one of the world’s top tea consuming nations but produces very little tea, despite good growing conditions.

The Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC) is promoting indigenous tea as a means of reducing the “huge bills it has been spending on tea imports,” according to The Nation, a Pakistan newspaper.

Per capita consumption has risen to 1 kilogram annually, making Pakistanis some of the top tea-drinkers among non-producing nations. Americans, by comparison, consume less than 200 grams of tea annually.

The research council says proper management, capacity building and investment could make Pakistan self-sufficient in just a few years. In time tea would generate dollars from exports. Fifty years ago Pakistan exported five million pounds (2,272 mt) of tea a year.

Black tea imports topped 127.3 metric tons in the past last year at a cost of $300 million. Green tea imports were 3,322 metric tons and represent $4.25 million better spent in the home market, according to PARC’s Chairman, Dr. Iftikhar Ahmad.  

Neither total accounts for a substantial sum of tea smuggled into the country from Afghanistan to avoid import taxes. India exported nearly 20 million kg of tea to Afghanistan and Pakistan last year, a total expected to surge this year as orders from the region are increasing.

To demonstrate tea’s potential PARC has planted test gardens in Kashmir and on 32 acres in Shankiari, 45 acres in Oagi, 32 acres in Balakot, 191 acres in Batagram and trained several hundred farmers in production techniques. The organization is also encouraging students at several universities to do their PhDs in tea production. Together these nurseries now have million plants ready for cultivation.

In May Pakistan began construction of a large-scale processing facilityin Manshera. The laboratory, which is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, consists of three departments including soil sciences, entomology, bio-chemistry and horticulture. The facility will be able to process up to 10 tons of black and green tea when completed in two years.

Pakistan’s top official in the Ministry of Science and Technology visited PARC’s National Tea Research Institute (NTRI) this week. Dr. Ahmad led a tour and briefing for Secretary Akhlaq Ahmad Tarar. Later Tarar praised the research venture and stressed the importance of involving the private sector in the development of tea production.

Scientists at the research institute proudly displayed 12 high-yield bushes and described 14 different tea cultivars currently under study. The institute is seeking the ideal variety for widespread planting near the experimental gardens that show the greatest promise.

Source: The Nation