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Report: Climate threat brewing for tea crop

Tea farmers pluck tea leaves at Tukiamwana in Kisii County. [Sammy Omingo, Standard]

A new report from the charity Christian Aid shows that Kenya, the world’s largest exporter of black tea, is facing a host of climate-related impacts such as rising temperatures, erratic rainfall, droughts, and new insect infestations.

These are forecast to destroy 26.2 per cent of the country’s optimal tea growing areas by 2050.  Areas with medium quality growing conditions are to be cut by 39 per cent in the next 30 years due to climate change. 

With its crucial role in the global market, the fate of the Kenyan tea sector has a major effect on tea drinkers around the world. The biggest per-capita consumers of tea are the UK and Ireland, host of this year’s COP26 climate summit.

In 2017, the UK imported 125,810 tonnes of tea. About 62,222 tonnes came from Kenya, which is more than the rest of the top ten biggest importing countries combined.

This year the UK has an opportunity to help address that as it hosts two major international summits with a direct impact on climate change.  

“As host of the G7 in June and the COP26 climate summit in November, the UK can ensure that countries on the front line of this crisis can adapt and respond to the impacts of climate change.

With countries starting to announce improved climate plans, there is a unique opportunity to accelerate cuts in emissions and boost the finance needed to help countries adapt to the changing climate,” Dr Kat Kramer, Christian Aid’s climate policy lead said. 

African climate change expert Mohamed Adow, Director of Power Shift Africa, a Nairobi-based climate and energy think tank, said: “This year, as hosts of the G7 and COP26, the UK has a big role to play in tackling it.

Boris Johnson talks a lot about ‘Global Britain’ and this is his chance to actually back it up with action. The whole world will be watching, especially Kenyan tea farmers and other people on the front lines of the climate crisis.”

These sentiments were echoed by Richard Koskei, 72, a tea farmer from Kericho.

“For generations we have carefully cultivated our tea farms and we are proud that the tea that we grow here is the best in the world. But climate change poses a real threat to us. We cannot predict seasons anymore, temperatures are rising, rainfall is erratic, more often accompanied by hailstones and longer droughts which was not the case in the past.” 

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