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Pakistan Minister slammed after urging people to drink less tea to help economy

Pakistan tea

Minister for Planning Ahsan Iqbal has urged people in Pakistan to reduce the consumption of tea as sipping fewer cups a day would cut Pakistan’s high import bills.

On Monday, the appeal from the senior minister came after it emerged that the nation consumed tea worth Rs 83.88 billion in the fiscal year 2021-22. According to the federal budget document for the outgoing fiscal year, Pakistan imported Rs 13 billion worth of more tea than the last fiscal year. Pakistan is the world’s largest importer of tea, buying in more than $600 million worth last year.

“I appeal to the nation to cut down the consumption of tea by one to two cups because we import tea on loan,” Mr Iqbal told Pakistani media.

The country’s low foreign currency reserves – currently enough for fewer than two months of all imports – have left it in urgent need of funds. Business traders could also close their market stalls at 20:30 to save electricity, he suggested.

Read more: Pakistan identified 64,000 hectares of area for tea cultivation along CPEC route

Moreover, the country’s foreign exchange reserves had dropped from around $16 billion in February to less than $10 billion in the first week of June, barely enough to cover the cost of two months of all its imports.

The request to reduce tea drinking has gone viral on social media, with many doubting the country’s serious financial problems can be addressed by cutting out the caffeinated beverage. However, it has also caused an uproar on Twitter.

Reham Khan, the former prime minister’s ex-wife, objected strongly to the suggestion. “First, half a roti and now we should reduce our tea consumption too?” she asked incredulously. “There can be no messing around when it comes to tea, sir,” she said.

Then there was one who was of the view the move would be a “violation” of their rights.

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