In a groundbreaking move, directors from the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) managed tea factories in West Kenya have joined forces to tackle a critical issue plaguing the industry—the growing stockpile of unsold tea in Mombasa. This united front, known as the West Kenya bloc, is not only addressing challenges but is set to revolutionize tea production in the region, seeking innovative solutions for the benefit of farmers and stakeholders alike.
Empowering Unity for a Stronger Future
The West Kenya bloc, comprising directors from KTDA factories in Nakuru, Nyamira, Bomet, Uasin Gishu, Nandi, Western, and Trans Nzoia counties, has established a collaborative caucus. This dynamic coalition aims to bring together representatives from 40 tea processing facilities, including 19 major factories and their affiliates. David Rono, the chairman of the caucus, emphasized their collective intent, focusing on tackling unique challenges within the West Rift bloc.
Rono stated, “We have collectively decided to establish an association that will empower us to confront challenges unique to the West Rift bloc. Our paramount concerns include the absorption of our tea in external markets, the exploration of novel market opportunities, and addressing the escalating levies in the sector.”
Innovative Strategies for Quality and Profitability
The primary goal of this united effort is to generate innovative ideas that enhance the quality of tea production while boosting farmers’ income. Recent bonus payouts revealed that farmers in the West bloc received lower returns compared to their East Rift counterparts. The accumulation of tea stocks in Mombasa warehouses due to a sluggish absorption rate is a pressing issue that the collaborative initiative seeks to address.
Rono explained, “Our objective is to identify untapped markets to augment sales and revenue for smallholder farmers. The geopolitical conflicts in Sudan and the Ukraine-Russia war have impeded the absorption of tea, particularly Grade BB1, as these regions are major consumers of tea sourced from the West Rift.”
Navigating Industry Challenges
The collaboration comes at a crucial juncture as Kenyan tea prices face potential decline, according to a World Bank report. Factors such as robust supply from major producers and weak demand from key importers contribute to this forecast. Government levies on tea have heightened production costs, impacting farmer incomes.
In response, the Tea Board of Kenya is conducting an audit of the tea value chain to address concerns about high production costs. Simultaneously, the industry is embracing the transition to specialty tea, a move that could fetch higher prices in export markets due to increased demand. KTDA has already taken strides in this direction, initiating the installation of new specialty tea processing machines in 32 factories, with an estimated cost of KES 10 billion (US$65.9 million).
A Steaming Cup of Transformation
As the West Kenya tea factories band together to overcome challenges, their collaborative spirit promises not just a resolution to current issues but a transformation of the entire industry. This united front is brewing success, turning adversity into opportunity and signaling a positive shift for the West Rift bloc and Kenyan tea as a whole.
Stay updated with the latest farming tips and agriculture industry news from Africa by subscribing to our newsletter. Don’t miss out on valuable insights and updates. Follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook to join our farming community and stay connected with us.