Kenya Production Declines Continue


Tea growers in Kenya are facing a difficult start of the cold season following a 7 percent decline in May production of black tea.

A lack of rain is to blame according to the state-run Tea Board of Kenya. Output fell to 32.8 million kgs last month. Export volumes rose 11 percent to 34.4 million kgs but overall production is down 18 percent for the year to 149.5 million kgs (compared the same period in 2010).

As the world’s top tea exporter heads into the June through August cold season production will further slow. Auction prices however are steady and currency depreciation has helped keep Kenya’s tea in demand.

Prices at the Mombasa tea auction were up slightly to $2.88 per kg compared to $2.53 during the same period in 2010 but volume slipped to 25.5 million kgs, down 23 percent compared to the previous year.

Tea growers west of the Rift Valley experienced the largest decline, reporting 19.3 million kgs, off 9.1 per cent from the 21.3 million kgs harvested in May 2010, according to the Tea Board.

"East of Rift production was lower by 5.6 per cent from 14.2 million kgs recorded in May 2010 to 13.4 million kgs," according to a Tea Board release.

Yields from small holders (averaging .5 acres) decreased 6.8 percent from 20.9 million kgs to 19.5 million kgs. The nation’s 500,000 small holders account for 62 percent of production.

Last year Kenya earned 100 billion shillings ($110 million) exporting approximately 400,000 metric tons, about 25 per cent of the global tea market. Tea is the nation’s most valuable cash crop and employs 4 million workers, accounting for 4 percent of the economy.

Egypt was the leading export destination for Kenyan tea having imported 6.4 million kgs of tea, accounting for 19 percent of exports. Political unrest earlier in the year reduced shipments that are now back to normal.

Other key export destinations for Kenyan tea were the United Kingdom which imported 5.5 Million kgs, Afghanistan (4.4 million kgs) Pakistan (4.1 million kgs), and Sudan (3.7 million kgs).

Sources: Reuters Africa, All Africa.