Thursday, June 20, 2024
Home News Ugandan Tea Farmers Draw Lessons From Kenya

Ugandan Tea Farmers Draw Lessons From Kenya

by Jacquiline Nakandi
0 comment

By Nelson Mandela Muhoozi

International Tea Day has today, Tuesday, May 21, 2024, been celebrated with much fanfare at the Nandi Bears Club grounds in Nandi County, Kenya.

The event has drawn a diverse group of participants, including government officials from Kenya and other African nations such as Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Mozambique.

Over 30 tea farmers from Uganda are in attendance, keen to learn from Kenya’s advancements in tea quality and the cultivation of speciality teas.

Alex Amanya, the senior project manager at Solidaridad East and Central Africa in charge of tea, says the learning opportunities for Ugandan farmers are many.

“There are significant opportunities for Ugandan farmers to learn from Kenya, particularly in terms of quality and organisation,” Amanya stated.

He highlighted that embracing speciality teas like green and purple could dramatically increase farmers’ earnings.

East African Tea Trade Association (EATTA) managing director George Omuga echoed this sentiment urging farmers to adopt green and specialty teas, which can yield 10 times more than the income of traditional black tea.

“Embracing these high-value tea varieties can revolutionise the tea industry in East Africa,” Omuga added.

Tea produced in Kenya. Photos by Nelson Mandela Muhoozi

Uganda’s tea industry, which was once the second-largest foreign exchange earner, contributing over $150 million annually, has now fallen to fifth place.

Amanya urged the Ugandan government to mirror Kenya’s efforts in promoting tea cultivation and value addition.

He stressed the importance of government support in helping farmers transition to high-value tea products, which could be grown at a cottage level and command higher market prices.

Amanya also noted the potential for exporting green and speciality teas to China and the European Union. He called for enhanced research into new tea trends and the development of speciality teas, pointing out the outdated state of Uganda’s tea planting materials, some of which date back to 1937.

“There is an urgent need for research and funding to rehabilitate old tea gardens and introduce improved varieties,” said Edgar Araali Tabaro, a tea farmer from Kabarole district.

Tea conference

In addition to today’s celebrations, the tea industry is gearing up for the first African Specialty Tea Conference, scheduled to take place in Kenya on May 22-23, 2024.

Organised by the Purple and Specialty Tea Association of Kenya (PSTAK), this two-day event is expected to feature international tea experts and bring together farmers from across Africa to discuss and exhibit specialty teas.

Amanya emphasized the importance of supporting cottage farmers to produce diverse tea products like green tea, orthodox tea, and white tea.

These efforts, coupled with traceability and carbon-neutral production systems, would bolster environmental sustainability while supporting social sustainability through the involvement of women and youth farmers.

“Our fertile soils and favorable climate allow us to produce organic tea with minimal pesticide use, which can appeal to the Chinese market, especially for green and orthodox teas,” he said.

However, Amanya stressed the necessity of government backing for small-scale farmers, including investments in production and marketing of teas to Europe through bilateral agreements.

The tea crisis in Uganda

The global tea market has been affected by a significant drop in demand due to political and economic crises in major tea-consuming countries.

Gregory Mugabe, the chairperson of the Uganda Tea Association (UTA), recently said conflicts in Ukraine, Russia, Israel, Palestine, and Sudan, along with economic crises in Pakistan and Egypt, have led to a decline in tea exports.

These countries, key importers of black tea from East Africa, are currently unable to pay for tea due to foreign exchange shortages.

UTA statistics reveal that over 33 per cent of teas offered weekly at the Mombasa tea auction remain unsold. Uganda, contributing only 10-15 per cent of the teas at the auction, has seen its tea prices plummet to historic lows.

“Most factories sell their tea at prices less than $1 per kilogram, the worst price in Uganda’s history,” Mugabe lamented.

The tea sector in Uganda and broader East Africa has traditionally focused on producing black CTC tea, primarily for the European market.

However, as European consumers increasingly demand sustainably produced products, the sector has struggled to adapt. Increased black tea production in Kenya and Uganda, amid falling demand, has exacerbated the crisis.

Amanya pointed out the need for the tea sector to realign with global market trends. “We must recapture the lucrative European and North American markets by meeting their sustainability and impact requirements,” he said.

According to him, this includes supporting cottage and specialty tea businesses to produce diverse tea products, thereby enhancing environmental and social sustainability.

The post-COVID era has seen renewed demand for healthy products, and tea, being a health-promoting beverage, stands to benefit.

However, realising this potential requires concerted efforts to innovate and adapt to changing market dynamics.

As International Tea Day celebrations continue, the focus remains on learning and collaboration. By sharing knowledge and experiences, East African countries can strengthen their tea industries and secure a prosperous future for their farmers.

History of the International Tea Day

International Tea Day has two different origins. The first International Tea Day was launched in 2005 by trade unions, small tea growers, and civil society organizations in Asia and Africa to address the issues of living wages for workers and fair prices for small tea producers.

The second International Tea Day is celebrated on May 21st and has its roots in the tea-producing nations of the World Tea Conference, which proposed the date to commemorate the signing of the First International Tea Agreement in 2005.

The Director, Swazi Highland Tea Co Ltd, Victoria B. Ashabahebwa, said they celebrate the socio-economic significance of Tea world over on the day, and added that, “The day promotes sustainable development in the tea sector. We honour tea-growing communities, the faces behind the leaves -the farmers and the families that depend on this industry.”

In addition, she said, “We celebrate the role tea plays in hospitality; there is no better welcome than a cup of tea. We celebrate tea, the comforting companion and create awareness to promote consumption and we celebrate healthy living.”

You may also like

Leave a Comment

Download Vision Group Experience App

Follow Us

All Rights Reserved © Harvest Money 2023

error: Content is protected !!