It is possible to grow tea in the Hazara and Malakand divisions thanks to their diverse ecological zones, salinity-free grounds, and improved climate.
The first steps in the country’s tea production industry were taken in 1958, and in 1976 the Pakistan Agriculture Research Institute undertook a project that eventually resulted in the formation of (NTHRT) at Shinkyari Mansehra in 1986.
Later, a modern processing facility imported from Turkey was erected at the national institution stretched out over 50 acres. A black tea processing unit was established up in 2001, followed by a green tea factory in 2005.
The Pakistan Bureau of Statistics reports that tea imports from July through February 2021–22 totaled $423.466 million, a significant rise of 11.64 percent from the $379.314 million in imports from July through February 2020–21.
The amount of tea imported during the time under review increased by 3.62 percent, from 171,469 metric tons in 2020 to 177,671 metric tons in 2021. When comparing February 2022 to the same month in the previous year, tea imports rose 59.56 percent year over year. Compared to February 2021, when tea imports totaled $43.172 million, February 2022 saw tea imports of $68.886 million.
Due to the favorable environmental conditions, salinity-free land, and high rainfall features of Khyber Pakhunkhwa and Azad Kashmir, according to Dr. Abdul Waheed, Director of the National Tea and High-Value Crop Research Institute (NTHRT), Shinkyari, more than 64,000 hectares of land are suitable for commercial tea cultivation.
He claimed that during the colonial era, when the product was transported from China and grown in Pakistan, the culture of drinking tea had become more widespread in the subcontinent.
According to him, Pakistan primarily relies on tea imports to meet consumer demand. In 2020–2021, Pakistan bought 2,58,000 tons of black tea, valued at over $596 million, and 300 tons of green tea, valued at $60 million.
According to Dr. Abdul Waheed, if the nation’s consumption of tea continues at this rate, the cost of imports will likely surpass Rs 200 billion in the coming years.
According to Dr. Naveed Ahmed, a research scientist at NTHRT, Pakistan now consumes 1.5 kilogram of tea per person year. He claimed it was a successful industry, with a one-acre crop yielding up to Rs 1 million in profit for every Rs 0.2 million invested.
Like olives, he said, tea plants give production after five-year of its cultivation and any farmer having 50 to 100 acres land can start this business and reap its financial benefit for 120 years, adding 158,000 acres land were suitable for tea cultivation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and 4,000 acres in Azad Kashmir.
Waheed argued that in order to prevent them from being replaced by other tree species, tea and olive plants should be classified as forestry, and farmers should be given financial incentives to encourage their commercial cultivation.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s basic study on tea has been finished, according to Dr. Fazal Bhari, Director General Research of the KP Agriculture Department. He underlined the importance of encouraging farmers to pursue its commercialization.