Smallholder farmers in Rwanda now owners of country’s largest tea factory Mulindi Tea

RWANDA – The Wood Foundation Africa and Gatsby Africa, through their jointly owned charitable company, East Africa Tea Investments (EATI), have signed off their majority shares in Rwanda based Mulindi Tea Factory to the country’s small-holder farmers.

The philanthropic investors first acquired 55% stake of Mulindi Tea Factory in 2012 following its privatization by the government.

The remaining 45% was held by 5,000 farmers and farmer shareholders represented by two cooperatives i.e., COOPTHE and COOTHEVM, who are now currently the sole owners of the company, making it the first factory to be 100% owned by small-holder farmers.

During the handing over ceremony, Sir Ian Wood, Executive Chairman of The Wood Foundation said, “It’s been a matter of great pride and satisfaction for Lord Sainsbury and me to work with the tea farmers at Mulindi. 

“It was difficult, to begin with, but with the investments and significant training programmes, the farmers’ performance and their income have greatly improved. 

“We are very pleased to be handing over a well-established successful company and will continue to provide some support for an interim period.”

Left on a good footing

Over the past one decade, under the leadership of Wood Foundation and Gatsby Africa, the company registered tonnes of achievements to include, increasing factory processing capacity from 60 metric tonnes to 120 metric tonnes of green leaf per day.

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In total, the factory currently produces up to four million Kgs of manufactured tea and generates revenues up to US$ 9 million per annum.

Meanwhile, the farmers were trained on best practice tea management skills, with green leaf production increasing from 13.5 million Kgs in 2013 to 18 million Kgs, in turn raising the average farmer annual gross income from US$ 1,412 in 2013 to US$ 2,881 in 2021.

In addition, the producers were paid US$ 3.1 million paid as bonuses, over and above their green leaf income.

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The factory has also been a key contributor to the local economy as it was recognized as the best taxpayer by Rwanda Revenue Authority in 2015, 2017, & 2019.

“After 10 years, the handover of Mulindi represents an exciting new chapter in a project that I’m delighted that Gatsby, my charitable Foundation, has been a part of. 

“I’d like to thank all those who have contributed to Mulindi’s success, particularly the commitment of the farmers themselves. 

“I look forward to following the factory’s progress and hopefully we will see more farmer-owned businesses in the region in the future,” said Lord David Sainsbury, founder Gatsby Africa.

Commercial tea production in Gicumbi District began in 1960 with the construction of the Mulindi Factory Company.

With a capacity of 3,200 metric tonnes and 175 ha of the industrial block currently occupied, it is now Rwanda’s oldest and largest factory in terms of production.

“I look forward to seeing continued growth at Mulindi, that the business maintains a high standard of professionalism and governance, and that it continues to act in the interest of its members,” said Dr. Gerardine Mukeshimana, Minister for Agriculture and Animal Resources urged farmers.

Rwanda earned US$ 96.7 million from tea in 2021 (January – December), a 7% increase compared to 2020.

Tea export volumes increased 8% from 32,720 metric tonnes of made tea in 2020 to 35,390 metric tonnes in 2021.

The Government of Rwanda has always supported initiatives aiming at enhancing the tea sector, targeting to earn US$209 Million from export of the crop by 2024.

Currently, the sector has a direct workforce of 60000 people who produce one of premium quality black CTC teas in the world.

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