KENYA – Agricultural firm Sasini PLC has implemented technology-driven measures, including mechanized tea plucking, leading to the reduction of 267 jobs in the past year.  

The company’s latest annual financial report reveals a decrease in employee numbers from 2,567 between January and September 2022 to 2,300 during the same period in 2023. 

Primarily impacting staff working on farms, the workforce dropped from 2,401 to 2,130. The adoption of digitization in operations and technological interventions, such as mechanized tea harvesting, played a key role in reducing wastage, increasing efficiencies, and containing the cost of production. 

In its annual report, Sasini highlighted the success of mechanization in harvesting and the use of drones for fertilizer application in its tea business.  

The company said, “The continuing digitization in our operations and technological intervention through the investment in mechanized tea harvesting has helped us in reducing wastage, increasing efficiencies and containing cost of production.  

We have extended these benefits to select out grower farmers looking to have all our out grower farming community in the partnership loop.” 

The changes followed a net profit of Kes542.55 million (US$3.38M)for the year ending September 2023, down from Kes1.1 billion (US$6.8)M)in the previous financial year. 

Sasini reported a decline in staff costs to Kes359.9 million (US$2.24M) in the review period from Kes381.9 million (US$2.38M) in the previous year, reflecting the positive impact of the reduced workforce.  

The company attributed the drop in revenue from Kes7.3 billion (US$45.48M) to Kes5.7 billion (US$35.51M)to disruptions in the coffee trade resulting from milling and marketing license reforms implemented by the government.  

Sasini acknowledged the challenges posed by the highly regulated business environment, expressing concerns about regulatory risk and potential reputational damage in case of breach. 

Addressing the impact of government-led coffee reforms, Sasini stated, “During the year, the coffee reforms spearheaded by the government heightened within the coffee sub-sector and, as a result, heavily impacted our revenue channels.”  

The company emphasized its commitment to building constructive relationships with regulators and the government to navigate challenges and contribute to inclusive economic development. 

Gasification Technology 

The news comes when the tea sector in Kenya explores innovative technologies to cut 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. 

Participants were shown how innovation can improve the reliability and cost of power, decarbonising heat, and the benefits of applying biochar to the Kenya tea sector. 

Dr Dries Roobroeck from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture said there are a number of benefits associated with gasification technology. 

“Tea factories use a lot of fuel. Gasification will help generate electricity,” he said. 

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