KENYA – Kenyan state-owned corporation, Nyayo Tea Zones Development Corporation (NTZDC), has commissioned its second tea processing factory in Kirinyaga County, Central of Kenya.
The factory, according to reports by Citizen News, comprises of a traditional tea processing line with the annual processing capacity of 7 million kilograms of green leaf.
The facility will also feature a second line, to be soon installed, dedicated to processing of specialty and orthodox teas including purple tea, which on average fetches a higher price in the market than traditional black CTC tea.
At its inception in 1986, NTZDC was mandated to protect forests through establishing a buffer zone of tea and assorted tree species around Kenya’s gazetted forests in a bid to stop humans’ encroachment.
These forests include; Mt. Kenya Forest and Nyambene Hills, the Aberdare Ranges, the Mau Forest complex, Nandi Forest, Cherangani Hills, Kakamega Equatorial Forest and Mt. Elgon.
Having buffer zones covering a stretch of over 300 km, or about 3,000 hectares, NTZDC turned focus to tea processing with the opening of its factory, Kipchabo Tea Factory, in Nandi County in 2010.
Proceeds from green tea and processed tea are ploughed back to expand the buffer zones and conservation activities thus protecting the environment.
Establishment of the factories supports the Kenya Vision 2030 development blueprint that seeks to make the country East Africa’s largest economy and the continent’s manufacturing hub.
It also supports two anchors of the Agriculture Sector Transformation Growth Strategy: increased small-scale farmer incomes, and increased agricultural output and value addition for sustainable development.
The inauguration is timely as Kenya has once again gained access to Sudan’s tea Market after the three-year standoff between the two countries over the shelf life of tea was fully resolved, paving the way for increased shipments to one of Kenya’s main markets.
Tea takes about six months to reach Sudan as it has to go all the way to Cairo, meaning that with a shelf life of 18 months, the beverage would only have a year of the sell-by date when it gets to the country.
The Tea Board of Kenya says the two countries reached a consensus in 2021 after years of research, which established that tea has a shelf life of three years, coming as a boost to farmers.
Tea export volumes to Sudan have not been optimum over the last three years, however, data from the TBK shows that tea volumes to the neighbouring country jumped 62 per cent to 3.1 million kilogrammes against last year when Kenya shipped 1.9 million kilogrammes, making it the fifth-largest buyer of the commodity.
The TBK also said it is looking for new markets, especially in West Africa and diversifying to orthodox teas as the country seeks to cut reliance on the top 10 traditional markets, which account for more than 80 per cent of the total exports.
Kenya is currently the third-largest tea producer in the world and is ranked the largest tea exporting country, representing approximately 22% of the global tea trade, reports KBC.
Last year, the country’s tea export earnings rose by 13.3% to Ksh 136 billion (US$1.2 billion) in 2021 from Ksh.120 billion (US$1.06 billion) registered the previous year.