KENYA – Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) has received backing from the Kenyan Government in procuring and installing orthodox tea processing machines in 13 allied factories in various places in the country.

The KTDA Chairperson David Ichoho confirmed the national government has pledged to give KSh.800 million (US$6.43m) to assist in the procurement of the machines, which will strengthen the processing of orthodox tea.

He stated: “The Sh. 800 million will help us procure eight machines, and the agency will buy another five machines to make a total of 13.”

“The machines will help in processing orthodox tea, which has a high demand in the international markets and will eventually enable farmers to get more returns.”

Orthodox tea refers to loose-leaf tea produced through rolling machine (traditional) methods, which involves plucking, withering, rolling, oxidation/fermentation, and drying.

Currently, KTDA factories produce a tea variety commonly known as Cutting, Tearing, and Curling (CTC) that generates less income as compared to orthodox tea.

Ichoho highlighted the investment is in response to the high demand for various varieties of orthodox tea oolong, green, white or black tea, and KTDA has sourced for a market that requires over 2 million kilos annually against a local production of about 500,000 kilos.

He added that KTDA is eying to tap a wider market on the African continent, explaining that the continent has a population of more than 1.4 billion under the policy of Free Trade Area. According to him, this will ensure their tea is not highly affected by the fluctuation of overseas currencies.

“If we can open tariff and non-tariff barriers and approach individual countries diplomatically, we will be able to expand our market,” Ichoho underscored.

In October, Kenya shipped its first consignment of value-added tea, produced by Kenya’s oldest tea blending and marketing company, the Kenya Tea Packers (Ketepa), to Ghana under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement.

AfCFTA is deemed to be the largest free trade area in the world in terms of the number of countries covered, presenting a market of 1.2 billion consumers.

Ichoho, however, called for increased local consumption arguing that 95 percent of the locally produced tea is exported while only five percent is consumed locally, which exposes the produce to global market fluctuations.

He cited the political instabilities experienced in countries such as Pakistan and Iran, that are some of the biggest consumers of Kenyan tea.

Meanwhile, the private holding company owned by more than 600,000 small-holder tea farmers recently announced plans to sell hundreds of acres of land acquired to grow trees for wood fuel in favor of switching to alternative sources of energy.

Paradoxically, the people familiar with the industry say whereas wood fuel accounts for 90 percent of the energy supplied, this source accounts for 40 percent of the tea factories’ energy costs whereas electrical energy account for 60 percent of the energy bill.

The electricity provides the remaining 10 percent of the energy mix and is sourced from Kenya Power and factory standby diesel generators.

For all the latest food industry news from Africa and the World, subscribe to our NEWSLETTER, follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel.