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Rains lift Mount Kenya tea production in May

James Maina  prunes tea at his farm in Kamunyaka, Nyeri . PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NMG
James Maina prunes tea at his farm in Kamunyaka, Nyeri . PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NMG  

Improved tea production in the Mount Kenya region saw the first national increase this year at 1.6 million kilogrammes in May compared with the same period in 2016.

Tea Directorate attributes the increase to rains witnessed in April after a prolonged dry spell in growing zones that kicked off late last year.

Sector report from the directorate indicates the volumes of tea produced in May was 38.82 million kilogrammes up from 37.20 million kilogrammes in the corresponding period last year.

“The increase in production was largely attributed to scattered precipitation which was experienced in the east of Rift,” says the directorate in May report.

The east of Rift— Mount Kenya and Aberdares — output rose from 13.66 million kilogrammes to 16.17 million with the directorate noting that good production was mainly recorded within smallholder sub-sector, which saw the output increase from 21.62 million kilogrammes to 23.58 million kilogrammes.

However, the Tea Directorate said consistent cold weather conditions coupled with less rainfall in the west of Rift saw the output in the region decrease from 23.53 million kilogrammes recorded in May 2016 to 22.64 million kilogrammes in 2017.

Tea production for 2017 is expected to drop by 11 per cent due to the effects of drought.

Agriculture and Food Authority said production of the green leaf would drop from 473 million kilogrammes produced in 2016 to about 420 million kilogrammes this year.

Tea production for 2016 reached an all-time high of 473 million kilogrammes, which was 18.4 per cent higher than 399 million kilogrammes recorded in 2015.

In the period under review, tea output within the plantation sub-sector decreased from 15.57 million kilogrammes to 15.23 million kilogrammes.

The plantations comprise large multinational companies who export produce directly to international market, unlike small-scale traders whose tea is purchased by Kenya Tea Development Agency for sale through the auction in Mombasa.

Last month, the directorate and Export Promotion Council inked a deal that will enable small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to export the beverage directly to global markets.

The memorandum of understanding aims to double the volume of tea that SMEs export. Currently, multinationals export up to 90 per cent of the total volumes produced in the country.

While the small-scale traders export the remaining 10 per cent.

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