NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 21 – Dry weather conditions in the first half of 2008 adversely affected tea production last year, with a six percent drop to 345 million Kgs recorded for the year.
Statistics from the Tea Board of Kenya showed that tea growing areas experienced depressed amounts of rainfall, while other parts of the West of Rift were hit by some incidences of frost.
“Consequently, production for the first quarter of the year declined by 34 percent to 70 million Kgs while that of the second quarter dropped by three percent from 90 million Kgs,” said the Board’s Managing Director Sicily Kariuki on Wednesday.
She said that during the year, the smallholder sub-sector registered the highest drop in production from 229 million Kgs to 210 million Kgs, while the plantation sub-sector production went down by four percent to 134 million Kgs.
The poor performance was not unique to Kenya, as other tea producing countries particularly in Africa experienced reduced production as well.
“Tea producers in Asia recorded improved production, with output growing by about 12 percent in Sri Lanka and 4 percent in India for the period January to October 2008,” Mrs Kariuki said.
During the year, the amount of Kenyan tea offered for sale at the Mombasa Auction stood at 252 million Kgs, against 281 million Kgs offered in 2007.
However, owing to the reduced production, the average price for tea for the year hit a high of $2.33 dollars per kilo, compared to $1.76 dollars realised in 2007.
Owing to the higher prices in 2008, the tea earnings also reached an all time high of Sh62 billion compared to Sh43 billion registered in the previous year.
During the year, Kenyan tea was exported to 50 market destinations world-wide compared to 46 destinations in the same period of last year. The total export volume for the year stood at 383 million Kgs, which was 10 percent up compared to the 345 million Kgs recorded in 2007.
Egypt was the leading export destination having imported 99 million Kgs, which accounted for 26 percent of the total export volume. Other key markets included the UK, which imported 69 million Kgs; Pakistan (61 million Kgs); Afghanistan (25 million Kgs) and U.A.E (17 million Kgs).
Among these five traditional markets for Kenyan tea, there was a decline in tea export volumes to Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Sudan which recorded 23 percent, 10 percent and seven percent drops respectively. The slump was attributed to higher auction prices that led to lower buying interest particularly within the lower-end market.
Local domestic tea consumption also dropped by two percent from 17.6 million Kgs to 17.3 million Kgs.
The drop was attributed to lower sales recorded at the start of the year due to interruptions of ground transport logistics owing to post-election violence in early 2008.
It was also blamed on the higher inflation rates that affected the consumption of basic food items and the effects of the global economic crisis caused by food, fuel, finance and prolonged dry and hot weather conditions.