The Tea Research Foundation is set to deliver to the over 600,000 tea farmers improved clones meant to triple leaf yields replacing the old ones at a time when the the demand for Kenyan tea globally is at an all time high.
As a result, the Ministry of Finance with that of agriculture is introducing a new levy on tea to help the farmers upgrade their tea bushes and boos production.
“The tax introduced should not be seen as money going to waste as it will be used to improve the quality of tea by replacing the old tea bushes with new clones,” said Agriculture PS Dr. Romano Kiome.
The levy will also be used for research, marketing and value in addition to upgrading tea bushes.
Most tea bushes in the country were planted between 1960 and 1970 and have never been replaced, a fact that has been blamed for locking the country from realizing its full potential even as its major global competitors Sri Lanka and China who have introduced a raft of measures including renew of tea bushes every three years to increase production.
As more farmers question the expected tax the PS is urging respective tea factories to sensitize its members on the what the quality of the clones means to them and why it is important for them to adopt them.He said that the government will set up a fund to mitigate farmers from losses during the exercise, which is expected to take around five years.
Kiome observed that multinational, large scale farmers have already begun the process of replacing their tea bushes and that the programme will be initiated by the Government to support individual farmers, saying that small scale farmers have to get their share of replacing their tea bushes.
Currently most tea bushes produced an average of two kilogrammes of leaves, yet there were better varieties that could produce triple the amount under similar conditions,” he noted. Kiome reiterated that continued subdivision of land has exerted pres- sure on production and unless farmers plant the high yielding varieties the sector will be hurt by reduced returns.
The tea sector earned the country Sh107 billion last year. Last year the Kenya Tea Development Authority (KTDA) paid farmers the highest dividend in the world in what they attributed to the rising returns in Kenya which had stimulated increased production, with the country's tea production going up 8 per cent to 907m kgs last year, from 837 kgs the previous year.
Hearty demand for tea in the global market assisted in these impressive numbers, pushing the price of supermarket-quality tea up sharply, while from the beginning of this year, adverse weather conditions in many producing countries saw a global shortfall in supply.
As a result, the wholesale price of black tea had risen by 41 per cent since the beginning of the year, surpassing $4 a kg the previous year. This was the highest price since late 2009, when prices reached $5.45. Kenya is the world's largest exporter of black tea.
Written by Alvin Kaaga for African Laughter
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