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Weather conditions dip Kenya tea production

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 30 – Adverse weather conditions in the country have continued to affect tea production with the first half of this year recording an 11 percent decline to 139.2 million kilograms.

Tea Board of Kenya Managing Director Sicily Kariuki told reporters on Thursday that prolonged dry spells and cold temperatures resulted in the lower output of tea particularly in the East of Rift where production fell by 34 percent to 77.3million kgs.

“In contrast, tea growing areas West of Rift recorded a production increase of 10.7 percent to 88.6 million kilos from 80 million recorded in the same period of last ear during which the output was affected by incidences of frost,” she explained.

She however said there was a fairly good demand for the commodity as demonstrated by the sales in the Mombasa auction where a kilo of tea was selling at $2.42 up from $2.36 recorded in the corresponding period last year.

During the period (January to June) 167 million kgs valued at Sh30.8 billion was exported compared to 179 million kilos at Sh26.3 billion exported during the same time last year.

The five top traditional export destinations, Egypt, Pakistan, United Kingdom, Afghanistan and Sudan maintained their dominance accounting for 72 percent of the total export volume. Egypt however toppled Pakistan as the leading market for Kenyan tea.

Mrs Kariuki however sought to allay fears that the drop in exports to Pakistan was as a result of its successful search for other suppliers but instead it was due to the impact that the current global economic crisis was having on consumer purchasing power.

Asked what the next few months hold for the industry, the MD projected that production would remain low but farmers would fetch favourable prices should the US Dollar rate also remain constant.

“In terms of volumes, production could by the end of the year go down by about six percent. We also anticipate that earnings could be slightly higher than last year largely because the exchange rate is a bit favourable,” she added.

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Last year the country earned Sh62 billion from tea exports and this figure is expected to increase to about Sh65billion by the end of this year.

The reporters also heard that initiatives to encourage Kenyans to drink tea had begun bearing fruit with a five percent increase in consumption recorded in the same period.

In April, the government had pledged to allocate Sh200 million to the Tea Board to enable them promote tea as a beverage of choice. It is estimated that on average, each Kenyan drinks about 400 grams of tea per year but there are efforts to double this figure in the next few years.

Efforts to add value to the Kenyan tea are also on top gear with the MD revealing that they were developing a “Mark of Origin” to be used by exporters of tea originating from the country.

“We see ourselves launching the mark in September and once we have done that the brand owners will be called to utilise it,” Mrs Kariuki said adding that the Board would then help them market their finished products abroad.

Plans are also underway to try and classify tea based on the geographical location it is grown in.

The board has also over the last few years registered many tea packers, who are also involved in branding the commodity to enable it reach the identified market destinations.

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