Bangladesh expects record tea output in 2016 - minister

DHAKA, Dec 18 (Reuters) - Bangladesh’s tea output in 2016 is expected to hit a record 80 million kg from 66 million a year earlier, the commerce minister said on Sunday, a volume that may be big enough to make imports unnecessary.

The country became a net importer of tea after ranking as the world’s fifth-largest exporter in 1990s, due to a big increase in domestic consumption.

“Tea production this year is likely to hit all-time high of 80 million kg,” Tofail Ahmed, the minister, told reporters when announcing a tea exposition on Jan. 12-14.

Domestic consumption has been rising by more than 3 percent annually, in line with economic growth.

Bangladesh has imported tea mostly from India and Thailand, market sources said.

Tea is sold at the country’s sole auction center, in the port city of Chittagong, where most of it is picked up by domestic buyers.

Bangladesh also exports a small quantity, mainly to United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, where many Bangladeshis work. (Reporting by Ruma Paul; Editing by Richard Borsuk)