More than two million kilogrammes of tea have been transported using the standard gauge railway (SGR) in the past one year after nine factories adopted ex-factory containerisation.
Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) Management Services managing director Alfred Njagi said the move has led to enhanced efficiency in the transportation.
“Ex-factory containerisation continues to be an increasingly preferred option for big packers that have direct sales arrangements with factories.
Over and above being a more efficient method of transporting tea by cutting down on delays occasioned by road transport and warehousing,” he said.
Ex-factory containerisation involves packaging tea into containers at source (factory) and transported it to Mombasa port without going to the warehouse.
The factories ferry the containers by road to Naivasha or Nairobi Inland Container Depot in Embakasi for transportation by SGR to the port.
The nine KTDA-managed factories using the direct sales channel have transported tea for export worth more than Sh600 million by SGR, cutting the costs. Farmers also receive payments earlier than when the tea is transported by road to Mombasa and sold after storage in the warehouses.
“For the customers, this process ensures the quality of the product is maintained due to the shorter time it takes to reach them and also guarantees product safety due to lower multi-handling of the tea,” said Mr Njagi.
The factories — Mungania, Ngere, Momul, Gacharage, Kapkoros, Makomboki, Motigo, Imenti and Kionyo — have taken advantage of low SGR rate of Sh25,000 for a 20-feet container from Naivasha to Mombasa and Sh35,000 for the 40-feet container compared to about Sh55,000 using trucks.
Kenya Railway Corporation recorded an increase of downward cargo handling in the past year attributed to the export of tea, which has been on the increase.
Mr Njagi said the SGR has added advantages in that the tea factories do not incur auction expenses such as warehouse storage and brokerage costs.
More than 15 per cent of Kenyan tea is sold through direct sales while the rest is sold through the Mombasa auction.
Currently, the containerisation is a joint project between the nine factories and Taylors of Harrogate, a leading packer based in Yorkshire, UK.