Drought cuts 14pc in tea production

A worker picks tea in Kericho. File photo | nmg
A worker picks tea in Kericho. File photo | nmg  

Tea production in the first eight months of the year dropped 14 per cent due to a severe drought in the first quarter.
Monthly data from the Tea Directorate indicate the volumes of the crop dropped from 309 million kilos last year between January and August to 265 million kilos in the corresponding period this year.

“The decline is attributed to unfavourable weather conditions experienced during the first quarter of the year,” says the report.

Decline in production took its toll on export volumes with quantities sold to international market shrinking by 19 per cent from 351 million kilos between January and August 2016 to 285 million kilos in the corresponding period this year.

Reduced supplies at the auction helped to boost prices at the international markets, where Kenya sells over 90 per cent of its beverage, making it the leading exporter.

Bulk of the tea from the small scale sub-sector is sold through the Mombasa auction, where a kilo fetched an average price of Sh314 in the period under review, up from Sh300 last year.

The yields for 2017 is expected to drop by double-digits  this year according to Agriculture Food Authority (AFA) due to drought in what is likely to affect farmers’ earnings in the 2017/2018 financial year.

AFA says production of green leaf will drop from 473 million kilogrammes in 2016 to about 420 million kilogrammes this year on account severe drought.

Nyeri and Kirinyaga counties were the worst hit this year, with production falling by 30.6 per cent and 32.6 per cent respectively.

The drought, according to Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA), which manages small scale farmers, cut farmers second earnings from Sh44 billion paid to growers last year to Sh42 billion this year.

Kenya is a leading exporter of black CTC tea and the beverage earned country $1.226 billion (Sh127.3 billion) last year, which was a drop of 1.7 per cent from the $1.247 billion (Sh129.4 billion) the commodity recorded in 2015.