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Economy

Climate change storm to cut tea production by 9pc in five years

Tea pickers in Kangema, Murang'a County. PHOTO | FILE
Tea pickers in Kangema, Murang'a County. PHOTO | FILE 

Kenya’s tea production is likely to drop by nine per cent by 2020 because of climate change, threatening the country’s foreign earnings from the crop.

A research by Tegemeo Institute — a think-tank of Egerton University — reckons that tea production will be affected by increased rain and temperature as a result of global warming.

“Much effect of the climate change on crops will be felt in the Kenya’s tea sector with production expected to drop by nine per cent in 2020,” said Justus Ochieng, a research fellow at Tegemeo.

Dr Ochieng said an increase in temperature beyond 23.5 degrees Celsius would significantly reduce yields from tea.

The findings indicate that the climate change has the potential to significantly affect small-scale farmers’ livelihood as a good number of them rely on the crop for income.

This comes when world leaders are in France for climate talks to find ways of mitigating the impact of human activities on environment.

Countries are in Paris for the 21st Conference of Parties to agree on a climate deal that will prevent average global temperatures rising above two degrees Celsius, and to outline the opportunities in taking an about-turn.

Extremely low temperatures also affect tea production with frosts, cutting yield per bush.

Kenyan small-scale tea farmers’ earnings jumped 21 per cent to Sh63.6 billion in the year to June, thanks to a weaker currency and lower output.

Dry weather earlier this year cut output, driving up the average price per kilo to $2.60 in the second half, from an average of $2.43 in the prior financial year.

The volume of green leaf produced by small-scale farmers dipped to 1.03 billion kg over the period from 1.1 billion kg the previous year, Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) said.

The Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Authority, the farming regulator, said output fell to 175.2 million kg between January and June compared with 224.8 million kg in 2014.

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