A State agency has licensed a producer in the county to process and export purple tea products.
Horera Forest Edge Tea Company that is owned by Robert Murimi from Ragati has been licensed by the Tea Directorate of the Agriculture and Food Authority to manufacture, pack and export purple tea products after six years of waiting.
“The licence is a big win to all purple tea farmers in this region because it has not been easy since I started pursuing it,” said the farmer.
The directorate licensed the company to process up to a million kilogrammes of purple tea and has already registered 86 purple tea farmers.
“Farmers in my company extend up to Kirinyaga County and in Ragati tea catchment area alone. There are 75,000 bushes of purple tea. Purple tea has been shortchanged because for a long time, we have been selling the special tea at the same prices as green one,” he said.
Mr Murimi said he has approached a financial institution to loan him Sh20 million to set up a tea factory.
“I have identified a structure where I will set up the processing machine for a start,” said the farmer.
If Murimi manages to set up the factory and start processing purple tea, farmers from Nyeri, Kirinyaga and other areas would their produce at Sh2,000 per kilogramme.
A kilogramme of the green tea is sold at Sh15 and purple tea is not exempted in most areas without factories despite its value and the high returns in the markets.
The retired teacher and a former director at Ragati Tea Factory has planted 20,000 bushes of purple tea in his farm and consistent production of purple tea and market availability for the products is among the convictions he mentioned that led to the board giving him a go-ahead in manufacturing.
“There is enough market for purple and special tea products. We are not well established locally for the new variety products but the international market is available,” he said.
Lack of exposure for the benefits of purple tea and inability to secure and access local and international markets for purple tea products are among the reasons why farmers have shunned to diversify and venture into new varieties.
“Experts from the Tea Research Foundation of Kenya and Ragati Tea factory hyped farmers in this area about the economic gains from purple tea and so many farmers planted but nothing happened thereafter and most of them have since uprooted,” he added.
However, frustrations only motivated him to pursue the licence to encourage farmers who invested heavily in the new variety.
According to the Purple and Specialty Tea Association of Kenya, increasing the number of manufacturers of speciality tea in the country will motivate more farmers to venture into the variety which fetches better prices.
The association’s executive secretary Mercylynate Rotich said 20 members across the country had been registered, among them being small-scale producers, processors, packers and manufacturers.
Ms Rotich said licensing of purple tea produces would also strengthen cottage industries.
“Processing of specialty is still at young stage and many processors do not know what is expected as end product so as to match international standards,” she said.
“We have a long history as a country in processing of Black CTC tea and learning about a completely new product and how to meet international standards is a major challenge. A lot of awareness creation needs to be done for farmers to adopt speciality tea like yellow, orthodox and purple which have better profits,” she added.
The association, she said, has so far registered about 10 manufacturers.