KENYA – Kenya’s tea production witnessed a notable surge, growing by 7.94 percent in the 11 months leading up to November last year, driven by a substantial increase in output from large plantations.  

According to data from the Tea Board of Kenya (TBK), tea production reached 515.9 million kilograms (kg) during January to November 2023, up from 477.9 million kg in the corresponding period of the previous year. 

The breakdown of the data reveals that plantations played a significant role in this growth, contributing 266.3 million kg of green leaf during the period.  

This marked a robust increase of 13.2 percent compared to the same period in 2022. In contrast, smallholder farmers recorded a marginal uptick of 2.83 percent, with their output rising from 242.7 million kg to 249.6 million kg. 

In November alone, both plantations and smallholders collectively produced 50.90 million kg, reflecting a growth of 1.68 million kg compared to the same period in 2022. TBK attributed this surge to heavy rainfall during the first week of November, characteristic of the peak of the ‘October-December’ seasonal rainfall. 

The increased tea production, combined with a weakened shilling, has led to a significant boost in tea earnings.  

The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) reported that average tea prices rose to US$2,021.26 per tonne on average in the first 10 months to October, compared to US$1,802.44 per tonne during the same period in 2022. 

This rise in earnings signals positive news for tea farmers, positioning them to receive higher payments for their produce later in the year.  

Last year, affiliated with the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA), over 600,000 tea farmers received a record bonus payment of US$271.67 million, contributing to a total payout of US$416.56 million– inclusive of monthly payments – in the financial year ending June 2023. This represented a 7.6 percent increase from the US$386.97 million paid out in the previous year. 

 Notably, in the year to June 2023, tea prices reached US$2.10 per kg, up from US$1.91 in the previous year. 

Mechanization in tea sector 

Meanwhile, the large plantations like Sasini are embarking on the use of mechanization to enhance efficiency in agricultural operations. 

In a recent news update, Sasini cut 267 jobs in the past year with the adoption of digitized operations and technological interventions such as mechanized tea harvesting, playing a huge role in reducing wastage, increasing efficiencies, and containing the cost of production. 

The tea sector is also exploring other innovative technologies to cut the rising production costs.  

Last week, a section of tea farmers in the country were taken through a new technology known as gasification by experts with a view to making the sector profitable.   

The workshop in Nairobi sought to prove to the Kenyan tea sector that gasification technology using pruning residue and other renewable biomass resources can help cut production costs. 

 

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