Kenya’s lucrative tea sector is running on contradictory policies, with players clashing on roles.
The East African Tea Trade Association (EATTA) wants some of the policies addressed through a law that will clarify roles and relationships between management agencies, growers, and factory boards, to enhance accountability.
EATTA chairperson Arthur Sewe said the clash in roles can be resolved by adopting the Draft National Tea Policy (2018) to guide on procedures.
“The government initiated a draft National Tea Policy in 2013. However, arising from delay approving it, EATTA contracted a consultant to review it, identify any gaps and suggest remedies. It should be implemented immediately,” said Mr Sewe.
“The key issues to be addressed are low productivity, insufficient development and transfer of technology, high cost of inputs, multiple taxation regime and poor governance,” he proposed this week.
Extreme weather events
Since September, Kenya’s tea production has dropped significantly due to erratic weather, according to records at the Mombasa Tea Auction.
Data from EATTA indicated, a dip in the volume of tea offered by over half a million kilogrammes in October and projected that production is likely to drop further in the coming years.
The lobby blames climate change that had affected small-scale farmers’ livelihoods. According to a Food and Agriculture Organisation report released in May, Kenya’s temperature was expected to rise by 2.5 degrees Celsius between 2000 and 2050.
A new policy, the association argues, would set guidelines on sustainable farming practices to help farmers and small- and mid-sized enterprises in the agricultural sector adapt to the change in weather patterns.
These include selection of the most suitable areas for tea growing, crop diversification in low production areas, efficient management of soil and water resources, catchment protection, soil water conservation and rainwater harvesting.
For years Kenya basked under the optimal climate for tea growing comprising tropical, red volcanic soils, sunny days and stable rainfall.
Other major tea-producers India, Sri Lanka and China also face rising temperatures and extreme weather events that affect production.