KENYA – Rukuriri Tea Factory, a KTDA affiliate company in Embu County, has initiated plans to install an orthodox tea processing line for Sh300 million (US$2.16m) in a drive to tap into the growing market for the type of tea and boost farmers’ earnings.
The factory becomes the first to install such a line in the county and joins 11 others that are processing orthodox tea in the country.
KTDA has been encouraging tea factories to invest in specialty tea that fetches better prices in the international markets than conventional black CTC tea.
Rukuriri Tea Factory Chairman, Joseph Rwanjau, said they will commence by installing one line accompanied by two automatic withering machines.
He expects the line to be up and running in April 2024 as some machines will take close to six months to arrive from abroad in the country before being transported to the site.
The company, in collaboration with KTDA Management Services, sought a financier who would give them a moratorium and a grace period of up to three years before starting repayment.
“By doing so, the machines will start repaying themselves and so the cost on the part of farmers will be minimal,” he assured the farmers.
“As we stand now, one kilo of orthodox tea is going for between five and six dollars while the traditional CTC tea is selling at US$2.8 to US$3.0,” the Chairman said.
However, he also prepared farmers to be ready to incur some costs, which will eventually pay back handsomely as orthodox teas fetch almost double the price of black tea while calling on farmers’ support for the new development.
Rwanjau clarified that farmers need not plant other tea bushes since the difference was in processing and not the plant.
Orthodox tea refers to loose-leaf tea produced through rolling machine (traditional) methods, which involves plucking, withering, rolling, oxidation/fermentation, and drying.
Tea Research Institute has stated that the future of black tea, according to Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) projections was not promising and tea producers must start shifting to specialty teas.
The Institute Director, Samson Kamunya, while speaking in Embu during the World Tea Day Celebrations, said they had started rolling out technologies and innovations that will inject many more specialty teas.
“Between the next five to ten years, we want to see black CTC coming from Kenya reduce by 30 percent and the same be replaced by orthodox teas and other specialty teas,” he said and projected that in the same duration to see tea fortified products including beers and wines among others.
KTDA has also invested Sh130 million (US$0.95m) in building a new specialty tea (white and purple varieties) processing factory in Kiambu to diversify and cut reliance on black tea.