Tea production dips 8.5pc in 9 months

Women pick tea leaves at a plantation in Mbuvori area of Embu County recently. [Joseph Muchiri, Standard]

Kenya’s tea production dropped 8.5 per cent in the nine months to September this year, attributed to dry weather and poor rainfall at the start of the year.

Data from the Tea Directorate shows that the output fell to 316.8 million kilogrammes (kgs) from 346.23 million kgs the same period last year.

“Cumulative production for the period January-September 2019 was 8.50 per cent lower owing to severe hot and dry weather conditions and the late onset of the long rains long rains experienced during the first quarter of the year as well as depressed rainfall conditions in April and September,” said the industry regulator.

Production in the west Rift region was the most affected, falling by 9.08 per cent while production in the east Rift dropped by 7.48 per cent.

Tea exports rose however to 374.55 million kgs during the period from 349.12 million kgs during the same period last year. In September alone, Kenyan tea was exported to 42 countries, up from 38 during a similar period last year.

This is even as production fell by 16 per cent in September alone compared to a similar period in 2018. Pakistan remained Kenya’s key export destination - accounting for 35 per cent of the total export volumes. It imported 12.8 million kgs in September alone.

However, the exports fell 14 per cent compared to September 2018, a worrying statistic for the biggest consumer of Kenyan tea. Other key export destinations included Egypt, UK and Russia.

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The month also saw emerging markets - Turkey, Japan and Nigeria record higher exports. Local tea sales in the nine months to September, however, increased to 31.23 million kgs from 30.36 million kgs during the same period last year. The average tea auction price for the nine months to September stood at $2.19 (Sh224.5) per kg compared to $2.65 (Sh271.5) per kg same period last year.

In September alone, 23.28 million kgs of tea were sold through the Mombasa auction compared to 25.8 million kgs recorded in September 2018.

Exports and production figures usually differ because of unsold tea from the previous year. Tea output in September dropped 16 per cent to 35.53 million kgs compared to 42.53 million kgs recorded in September 2018.

Small-holder farmers recorded a decreased output of 4.59 million kgs from 22.58 million kgs in September 2018, to 17.99 million kgs September this year. The plantation sub-sector posted a production decline of 2.4 million kgs during the period.

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