Despite low domestic consumption, tea is still the leader in single earner commodity with Sh97billion in foreign exchange earnings. This is according to the government.
The weakening shilling against foreign currencies coupled with poor climatic conditions are said to have caused the negative impacts on domestic tea consumption that has in turn resulted to high prices and a decline in production rates of the commodity.
According to the Tea Board of Kenya, the consumption rates stood at 1.59 million kilogrammes for August 2011, the same level it was last year. The board has also witnessed a decline in production range of 10 percent due to prolonged dry conditions in the tea producing areas.
The Chairman of Tea Board of Kenya (TBK), Titus Kipyab, said despite all the challenges facing the industry, its prospects this year remain promising due to good export markets and payments to farmers.
“For the local packers the drastic depreciation of the shilling has had phenomoinal negative impacts rising the prices of tea, despite these, the commodity remains one of the leading foreign exchange earner and indeed took the lead last year with a record production of 399 million Kgs and export earnings of Sh97billion,” said Kipyab during the sixth national Tea Drinking Day and Industry awards Ceremony in Nairobi.
He added that were it not for the poor climatic conditions and the vulnerability of the industry the sector would have done exceptionally well. Lately there has been a prolonged dry condition in the East of Riftvallely and unusual conditions in the western region.
The bonus for farmers in the country has been growing with tea farmers enjoying an increase of Sh25 per kilo of the commodity from the previous Sh 17.
The PS in the Ministry of Agriculture, Dr. Romano Kiome reiterated that Tea and Agriculture in general has the capacity to perform well as it has been in the past decades. This is despite the challenges facing the sector.
“With over six percent in growth, agriculture has experienced leaps and bounds, the fact that it has improved livelihoods should not be underestimated. I know we have challenges but we will do well because we have the ability,” said Kiome.
According to the PS, in 1989 agriculture recorded a 22 percent growth which rose to 52 percent a decade later, in 2002 the growth increased by four percent to reach 56 and later depreciated to stand at the current 42 percent.
Kipyab said the good performance of tea industry is also due to the recent reforms the ministry of agriculture undertook to towards building policy regulation and regulatory capacity. This he said will improve the industry’s returns and enhance its global competitiveness.
“The recent amendment of the tea act will ensure there is market development compliance to legal and international standards, value addition, information dissemination and other supportive interventions,” he said adding that it has geatly contributed to curbing of tea hawkers.
The annual Tea Drinking Day and Industry awards under the partnership of Tea board of Kenya, the Agricultural Society of Kenya (ASK) and the Tea Trade saw over 90 factories participating compared to 84 last year who battled it out in the Commercial, Special manufacturer and the Speciality Teas cartegories.
The competition saw 11 packers participating from seven of the previous years.