Export earnings from tea grew by Sh16 billion or 13.3 percent last year, helped by higher volumes and a weaker shilling.
The Tea Board of Kenya (TBK) puts earnings at Sh136 billion last year when compared with Sh120 billion that was recorded in 2020.
The earnings came amid flat prices for the commodity, underlining the impact of higher export volumes. In the 10 months to October, for instance, the average auction price for Kenyan tea was unchanged with the same period of the previous year at $2.02 (Sh229).
Tea producers also benefitted from the depreciation of the Kenya shilling which had lost ground to hit lows of 113 units to the US dollar by end of last year.
“Export volumes stood at 558 million kgs of made tea against 518 million kgs in 2020 whilst tea export earnings amounted to Sh136 billion against Sh120 billion in 2020,” TBK reports.
The board, however, notes that earnings from local tea consumption declined to Sh19 billion against Sh20 billion realised a year earlier.
Total tea earnings, which stood at Sh155 billion, surpassed the Sh146 billion that tourism earned last year.
TBK says that despite the good performance, the tea industry has been facing several challenges which collectively threaten its competitiveness and sustainability.
“These challenges include declining tea prices, low earnings by tea growers especially within the smallholder tea sub-sector, poor corporate governance practices and exploitation of tea farmers by middlemen through green leaf hawking.”
Others include delayed payments to farmers, perceived decline in the quality of Kenyan produce and low levels of value addition and product diversification.
The regulator is monitoring compliance with good agricultural and manufacturing practices by tea producers and traders to ensure that they adhere to the set standards.
The move will entail the enforcement of the Tea Industry Code of Practice KS-2128 and Food Safety Management System to assists value chain players to improve their operations as well as enhance compliance levels.
The tea board is also undertaking a tea quality monitoring programme that involves observing the quality of Kenya tea against the set standards on physical, microbiological, pesticide residues levels and heavy metal requirements in order to ensure product quality and safety to consumers.