Tea cultivation needs govt attention to save foreign exchange Mansehra: Tea cultivation needs govt attention to save foreign exchange. Hazara and Malakand divisions are blessed with different ecological zones, salinity-free lands, and better climate conditions, making them suitable for tea cultivation. The initial work on tea cultivation began in 1958 in the country and later a project was launched through Pakistan Agriculture Research Institute in 1976 that led to the establishment of NTHRT at Shinkyari Mansehra in 1986. Later on, a black tea processing unit was set up in 2001 and a green tea factory in 2005 while a modern processing plant imported from Turkey was installed at the national institute spread over 50 acres. Dr Abdul Waheed, Director of National Tea and High-Value Crop Research Institute (NTHRT), Shinkyari said that over 64,000 hectares of land in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Azad Kashmir were suitable for commercial tea cultivation due to its conducive environmental conditions, salinity-free land, and high rainfalls’ features. Around 158,000 acres of land were suitable for tea cultivation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and 4,000 acres in Azad Kashmir, he added. He said all those areas with 100mm rainfalls such as Mansehra, Swat, and Batagram were suitable for its farming, adding nine different types of teas were being cultivated in Mansehra while about 350 acres of land in Khwazakhela, Matta, Duraskhela and Koza Bandai were cultivated in Swat prior to 2008-2009. He said that substantial investment was required to start its commercialization. Out of 64,000 hectares of potential, he said, only 80 hectares of land was under tea cultivation in K-P and Azad Kashmir. “Normally, three to four hours were required for processing after plucking of tea leaves.” He further said that about 95 percent of people’s demands could be met by bringing additional 2,000-hectare land under tea cultivation. “We have cultivated tea on 50 acres of land and 27 acres was achieved through the private sector,” he said. Moreover, 33 acres of land in Shinkyari institute was reserved for tea gardens where research was being done on fruits, vegetables, medicinal herbs, olive, and tea varieties besides the establishment of 10 acres tea processing unit. He said the institute equipped with experts and necessary equipment could produce four million tea plants and process 10 tons of tea leaves per year. He added, the institute exported about six tons of tea to Japan and distributed one lakh plants among farmers. Also, he said the recent floods have also inflicted damage to the tea crop in Hazara especially in Ogi, Siran, Bhattal, Shinkyari, and government patronage was needed to support the affected farmers.