Kenya urged to assist tea farmers enhance value addition

GMT 17:43 2016 Sunday ,24 April

Arab Today, arab today Kenya urged to assist tea farmers enhance value addition

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Nakuru - XINHUA

Dynamics in tea prices which in the last three years have been following a downward trend which leaves at least five million Kenyans in unstable living conditions.

Tea earnings for more than 500,000 small scale farmers spread in major tea growing zones in the East African nation serves as main source of fees and means of their family support.

A decline in profits resulting from low selling prices is threatening the stability of their families.

But there is a possibility of offering farmers better benefits if the Kenyan government and its development partners focused on exploiting profitable alternatives, according to Professor Kennedy Ondieki who runs a Taiwan-based company, Njianiteknosky.

The company manufactures vodka and whiskey from tea imported from Kenya.

Ondieki told Xinhua in an interview on Saturday that the quality of tea grown in Kenya is high and should be exploited to give the small scale farmers a better leverage in earnings.

"We should be thinking of adding value to our (Kenyan) tea instead of exporting it raw. The profits are high when they are processed and that is what we need," he said.

Globally, Kenya is the fourth largest producer of black tea after India, China and Sri Lanka, accounting to 10 percent of the world tea exports.

Locally, it contributes to about 26 percent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and supports more than five million people both directly and indirectly according to the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA).

However, in the last three years the prices have been unfavorable due to what the market players attributed to an oversupply forcing down the rates.

In January, a kilo of tea sold at average of 2.73 U.S dollars in the Mombasa Tea Auction, a price that dropped to 2.01 dollars in early April based on data from the East Africa Tea Trade Association.

But farmers can be cushioned from unstable prices if they are empowered to advance into adding value into tea, argues Ondieki.

"We can have cottage industries built through partnerships. And it will not only benefit farmers but the communities because many people will be absorbed to work in the industries," said the Kenyan entrepreneur, whose brand Jani Chai whiskey and Jani Chai vodka is popular in Taiwan.

He mainly imports tea grown in the Western Kenya, Rift Valley and Western highlands, where he says farmers are still poor despite many years of tea growing.

"We can help tea farmers get out of poverty if we can provide better options of processing their tea and selling it in good prices," he said.

"A bottle of whiskey goes for 45 dollars which is far much higher than the rates offered for the green tea. It is what the Kenyan farmers need," he said.

Ondiek said it was critical for the Kenyan government to engage in partnership with the private sector to enhance sustainable productivity in the tea sector.

Currently, efforts are being made to maintain the relevance of the tea farming in the Kenyan economy.

Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA), the entity responsible for marketing the cash crop, is moving into Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa, to widen the consumer base.

For decades, Britain, France, Germany, Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Afghanistan have remained traditional consumers of Kenyan tea but stiff competition from other tea exporting countries is chipping the East African nation's market share.

Source: XINHUA

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