African Tea Producers Get Some Relief

MOMBASA, Kenya

Yields that fell by half during the first six months of the year are gradually returning to normal in Kenya and Africa’s other tea producing countries are emerging from the worst drought in 60 years.

In Kenya, the continent’s top tea producer, the June harvest topped 30.1 million kgs., up from 28.9 million in the same period in 2011. Auction prices have averaged $3 per kg. so far this year, up from $2.97 in 2011 which has minimized the financial impact on the country.

The average price of Kenyan top grade tea last week was $4.06 per kg.

Tea Board CEO Sicily Kariuki credited rainfall in the West Rift Valley for increasing output to 20.6 million kgs, but in the East Rift “production dropped marginally from 9.8 million kgs, to 9.5 million kilograms due to cessation of the ‘long rainfall’ season and onset of the cold.”

Four months of dry weather depressed yields through the early part of the year. Total production is estimated at 360 million kgs, compared to the 377 kgs, harvested in 2011. That compares to the 399 million kgs, harvested in 2010.

 In both 2010 and 2011 exports exceeded yield, drawing down the country’s surplus and boosting sales of Uganda tea where the drought was less harsh. Kenya’s port at Mombasa is one of the busiest tea trading facilities in the world and much of Africa’s tea is shipped to the country for export.

Total exports fell to 207.77 million kg from 211.7 million kg in the six months to the end of June. Kenya, the world’s largest black tea exporter sent 441 million kgs of tea to 48 countries in 2010. Exports declined 5 percent in 2011 to 421 million kgs, but Kenya opened new markets in Brazil, Togo and Cameroon and now ships to 58 countries to earn $1.3 billion dollars, up from 1.17 billion in 2010.

Egypt remains the country’s most important export partner, annually buying 6.3 million kilos, roughly 21 percent of exports by volume. Pakistan (5.5 million kgs) Britain (3.9 million kgs) and Russia/CIS (2.9 million kgs) consume most of the nation’s exports.

Domestic tea drinkers will consume 20 million kilograms against 21 million in 2011, Kariuki said.

Malawi (second largest tea producer)

LILONGWE, Malawi

Tea production in March 2012 stood at 7.6 million kgs compared to 7.3 million kgs during the same period last year. According to the U.K. Tea Council brief, Malawi is the pioneer of tea growing in Africa, now exporting over 43,000 metric tons annually, Malawi has a 3% share of world exports and is mainly responsible for the spread of tea cultivation in Africa.

Uganda (third largest tea producer)

KAMPLALA, Uganda

Uganda's tea production is forecast to drop 8 percent this year, depressed by a severe drought in parts of the country. The official forecast for the 2012 crop was reduced by 1.8 percent after a drought in the first quarter cut yields by the Uganda Tea Association.

The output estimate was revised to 54 million kilograms (119 million pounds) from an initial forecast of 55 million kilograms in January, George William Ssekitoleko, the association’s executive secretary, said by phone today from Kampala, the capital.

Tea is one of the main foreign-exchange earners for Uganda, which consumes about 3 percent of its annual crop and exports most of its leaves through the world’s largest tea auction at Mombasa, in neighboring Kenya.

Uganda experienced the worst drought in 60 years this season, leading to food shortages.

Tanzania (fourth largest tea producer)

DAR ES SALAM, Tanzania

Production of the leaves may increase to 36 million kilograms in the 12 months through June 30, 2013, from 34 million to 35 million kilograms this fiscal year, according to Director-General Mathias Assenga. A new factory is being built in southern Tanzania with the capacity to process 1.5 million kilograms of tea a year, he said.

Zimbabwe (fifth largest tea producer)

HARARE, Zimbabwe

Tea production in Zimbabwe could begin commercially only after the successful establishment of irrigated tea estates. With an average annual rainfall of not more than 26 inches per annum, as opposed to the 50 plus inches per annum usually required, irrigation is essential to continuous growth. Zimbabwe now exports over 15,000 metric tons of tea per year.

Sources: Coast Week, Reuters, Bloomberg, BusinessWeek, Daily Monitor

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Dan Bolton

About Dan Bolton

Dan Bolton edits STiR Tea & Coffee Industry International. He was formerly editor and publisher of World Tea News and former editor and publisher of Tea Magazine and former editor-in-chief of Specialty Coffee Retailer. He is a beverage retail consultant and frequent speaker at industry seminars and conferences. His work has appeared in many beverage publications. He was a newspaper reporter and editor for 20 years prior to his career in magazines. Dan is the founding editor of Natural Food magazine and has led six publishing ventures since 1995. He lives in Winnipeg, Canada.

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