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Kenya's revenues can rise by 35 per cent from high quality tea, says expert

By Domnic Omondi | October 31st 2015

The country stands to earn more revenue from tea if farmers replace 30 per cent of the conventional tea that is grown in most tea plantations with a high-quality variety, says a tea expert.

Acting Deputy Director at the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (Karlo) Dr Samson Kamunya said Kenya can earn 35 per cent more in foreign exchange revenues from the global market by simply replacing a portion of its conventional CTC (Crush, Tea, Curl) tea with the orthodox variety. Moreover, this can happen without the need for farmers to increase their acreage.

He was speaking yesterday during the National Stakeholder Conference organised by the East African Tea Trade Association (EATTA), a voluntary non-profit umbrella body representing the interests of the tea industry in Africa.

The conference attracted 140 participants from across the entire tea value supply chain. There were also participants from Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania.

Dr Kamunya regretted that Kenya was not doing much to diversify its tea products, noting that the country was only known for producing and exporting one type of tea product   called CTC.

CTC earns the lowest amount of money per kilo. In 2014, the country earned an average of USD 2.3 per kilo.

“But if we can diversify and produce, process and export this tea that is called orthodox, the country can fetch an average of USD 4.9,” he said.

The name CTC is derived from the process of manufacturing black tea which involves passing the leaves through a series of cylindrical rollers with hundreds of sharp teeth that crush, tear, and curl the tea into small, hard pellets. Tea was Kenya’s highest foreign exchange earner in 2014, according to the Economic Survey of 2015. EATTA Vice chairman Tom Muchura noted that through improved research, many tea varieties are being grown in the continent.

“There is also potential for diversified tea products such as purple tea,” he said. Dr Kamunya said Kenya has so far developed 53 high quality, high-yielding varieties of tea for commercial utilisation. The newer levels being released have low levels of caffeine. Soon, the organisation will be releasing two varieties of tea, one of which is the purple variety.

Lack of modern laboratory has hampered research institutes from developing quality, high-yielding tea varieties that can compete well in the global market. The existing laboratory was constructed by the British colonial government more than 50 years ago, he said. “Though tea is the leading foreign exchange earner, we have not invested in this modern laboratory. ...the government needs to construct a modern laboratory,” he said.


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