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More tea to be cultivated as production goes down

By | June 21st 2011

By Patrick Githinji

Kenya's tea production is likely to spike further following the move by Nyayo Tea Zones to plant 3,705 tea bushes in the next five years.

According to the firm’s Managing Director, Anne Kinyua , the plan will enable the corporation increase its revenue base and in turn increase profitability.

The plan comes against reports that climate change will drastically reduce Kenya’s tea production over the next 40 years, denting earnings from one of the country’s top foreign exchange earners.

According to the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture, the land under tea will reduce by 42 per cent by 2050, creating excess capacity in tea factories.

Kinyua said the corporation has started processing tea through Kipchabo Tea Factory and expects to generate more income by reducing losses incurred as a result of unprocessed tea and improve the quality of tea produced by the Corporation.

The second factory, whose plans are at an advanced stage, will be constructed at Gatitu in Kirinyaga. Kinyua said they are exploring ways to sell branded tea as a product of its conservation activities, the corporation undertakes around gazetted forests.

Some of the tea production areas that will be vastly affected by the climate change include Nandi, Kericho and Gucha. The study, titled: Future Climate Scenarios for Kenya’s Tea Growing Areas, says producers in Bomet, Kisii, and Nyamira will need to adapt their farm management to new conditions. “Producers here will need to carefully analyse the implications and implement adaptation and diversification strategies,” says the report.

Production drop

However, the climate change will enhance production in Embu, Meru, Kirinyaga, Nyeri, Murang’a and Kiambu.

“There will be areas where today no tea is grown but which in the future will become suitable, especially the higher altitudes around Mount Kenya.”

“However, many of these areas are protected and it is not advised that forests be cleared to cultivate tea, as was done with the Nyayo Tea Zones in the 1980s,” it said.

Tea production has gone up from three million kilogrammes of green leaf in 1990 to 18 million in 2007. In 2008, production dropped to 15.1 million due to drought and labour force displacement due to post election violence.  The Tea Board of Kenya has indicated that  this year’s production could be 10 per cent lower.

Auction sales

This has been pegged on unfavourable weather experienced in the months of January to March and depressed rainfall in April.

Cumulative tea production for the period January to April 2011 stood at 116.6 million kilogrammes, which was 20.9 per cent lower compared to 147.5 million kilogrammes recorded during the first quarter of 2010.

Last year recorded the best performance for Kenyan tea with an output of 399 million kilogrammes.

“Going by the Kenya tea industry production performance for the first four months of the year, production for the year is likely to be lower by 10 per cent to 360 million kilogrammes,” Tea Board of Kenya Managing Director Sicily Kariuki said, adding: “Due to lower production, cumulative auction sales for Kenyan tea during the January-April period were slightly lower at 79.7 million kilogrammes while the average auction prices were slightly higher at $3.02 per kilo compared to $3.” Export volume during the month stood at 32.1 million kilogrammes, which was marginally higher by one per cent.

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