Tea exports hit by poor weather and global hardships

A tea plucker checks the viability of the plucked tea leaves. [File, Standard]

Kenya's tea industry last year suffered the twin challenges of poor weather that resulted in a dip in production and the global economic challenges that reduced purchases by the country's traditional buyers between January and October.

The trend persisted in November and December, with the Tea Board of Kenya (TBK) now saying it expects tea production and exports in 2022 to drop.

Despite the challenges, tea prices went up, with the Mombasa auction reporting the highest prices in three years.

Prices averaged $.249 (Sh308) per kilogramme (kg) between January and October with tea offered by small-scale farmers fetching $2.71 (Sh336) per kilogramme at the auction over the period.

In a report on the industry's performance for October, the board noted that tea production between January and October dropped, albeit by a marginal 1.34 per cent.

It attributed this to bad weather, adding that the October-December rains were inadequate to reverse the decline. Indications are that production for 2022 will be lower.

"Cumulative production for the 10-month period was lower by 5.81 million kgs to stand at 428.77 million kgs against 434.58 million kgs recorded during the corresponding period of 2021," said the report.

"Going by the trend to October, lower cumulative production is likely to be recorded for the year 2022 as the rainfall recorded during the 'short rains' season was depressed (below average) and poorly distributed in both time and space according to reports by Kenya Meteorological Department."

Reduced spending

TBK also noted that there was a 21 per cent decline in the amount that the country exported, with consumers in key export markets experiencing reduced spending.

Kenya's biggest export market, Pakistan, registered a 13 per cent drop in the amount it bought over the 10-month period.

Other major buyers of Kenyan tea reported even bigger drops, with Egypt, which was the second largest export market, posting a 33 per cent decline, UK 29 per cent, Sudan 35 per cent, Russia 37 per cent and Kazakhstan 40 per cent.

"Cumulative export volume for January to October 2022 was lower by 21 per cent to stand at 370.58 million kgs compared to 467.90 million for the ten-month period of 2021," said the Tea Board of Kenya.

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