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Shrinking returns irk tea farmers, stakeholders

Bridget Ondu @PeopleDailyKe

Stakeholders in the local tea industry have complained over dwindling returns from the sale of the commodity at the Mombasa auction, citing poor quality as the most probable cause.

They said they have been exporting large amounts of tea but profit has continued to shrink and it is even worse for the farmers in the west of the Rift Valley region as they get one dollar (Sh100.83) lower per kilogramme than their counterparts in the East of the Rift.

The stakeholders are afraid that quality of local tea is deteriorating, thus selling at a low prices. Responding to the claims, Rosemary Owino, Manager, Product Research and Development at Tea Directorate said Kenya has in the past 10 years experienced lower tea demand thus the low returns.

“We know that when the supply is higher than the demand the bargaining power goes down because it’s like we are forcing the consumers to buy what they do not need,” she said. The global production last year was 5.7 billion kilogrammes while the demand was 5.5 billion kilogrammes.

Owino, however, said monitoring is still going on to establish cause of deteriorating tea quality. Stakeholders said specialty tea such as green tea and purple tea are selling more and at a higher price than the black tea which means low profits to black tea dealers.

Tea Board of Kenya said specialty tea is fetching more as diverse health claims made about them have particularly made them popular. For instance, green tea is one of the most popular and extensively used dietary supplement in the United States.

“Purple tea for instance has a higher demand than the supply thus selling at higher prices but in future we would have more production of it in a way that both black tea and purple tea will sell at the same price,” Owino said.

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