By Abdulkarim Ssengendo
Women in the tea industry have challenged Parliament to expedite the process of passing a tea policy.
The farmers believe establishing a tea regulatory authority will ensure quality production and better price, especially on the international market.
Dr Sheba Rusoke Nyakaisiki, a tea farmer from Kyenjojo district, noted that the tea sector has remained constrained by many challenges along the entire value chain, attributing this to a lack of regulations to among others guarantee quality assurance.
Tea was introduced in Uganda in 1900, but up to now, the country has never had a policy.
Julian Kanyabuhara, the chairperson of Bushenyi District Women in Tea and interim chairperson National Women in Tea Organization, attributed this to the reason why Uganda’s tea quality is severely compromised.
Tea contributed 3.6 per cent of Uganda’s export earnings.
The comments were recently made during the launch of the Women’s Chapter in Tea Uganda. It was organized in partnership with Solidalidad and Trust Africa and held at Meridian Hotel in Bushenyi district to support women in tea growing across the country.
Over one million people in Uganda derive their livelihoods from tea. Uganda produced 60504 metric tons compared to the production of 70769 tons in 2020/2021.
On top of a tea policy, the women also advocated for the cottage industry as this will give opportunities to smallholder tea farmers to increase value of a green lead to be able to process their tea and sell it.
According to Nyakaisiki, countries like Kenya where the cottage industry has penetrated are doing well in terms of supporting smallholder farmers.
The cottage model involves purchasing machinery that is much cheaper than what you find in the large-scale tea industry.
“It is assumed that to set up a one-line tea factory on a large scale costs a minimum of $3m; the amount itself scares away a woman who has barely access to assets. With cottage processing level you can do so much at small tea farmers level, process your leaf and go ahead and sell it at the market and cut off the excessive control that is given to small tea holder farmers,” she adds.
Nyaisiki noted that right now, a tea out grower is 100% dependent on the tea factory which is predominantly multi-nationals or private factories with a very small number of farmer factories, and these tea factories dictate the price of the green leaf, that price is affecting the revenue and profits given to employees.
“Cottage will ensure quality and assured of a good price on the market be it the Ugandan or foreign market,” Sarah Basasa another farmer added.