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Weeks of drought in Kenya drive down tea output

12 March 2015, 10:45

Nairobi - A drought in recent weeks in Kenya is driving down tea output and processing factories are receiving fewer deliveries from fields each week, the country's leading tea-producing group said on Wednesday.

The Kenya Tea Development Agency, representing about 500,000 small-scale farmers who produce an average 60 percent of the country's output, said all their growing areas had experienced below-average rains in January and February.

"Our projection is that if the adverse weather conditions continue, there will be a major shortage of tea in the coming months," Alfred Njagi, KTDA's general manager for operations, said in a statement, although he gave no forecasts.

In the 2013/14 (July-June) financial year, KTDA produced 1.1 billion kg of the green leaf, roughly the same level as the year before. About 4.4 kg of green leaves produce 1 kg of black tea.

Kenya is the leading global exporter of black tea, and exports of the commodity raked in about $1.3 billion in 2013 from the sale of 432.45 million kg of tea.

Also read: Drought in East Africa puts 14 million people at risk

The regulator, Tea Board of Kenya, has yet to release full-year 2014 production and earnings figures. Provisional data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics shows production rose to 445.11 million kg last year.

Njagi said the drought had led to a reduction in factory operating times.

"During favourable weather, factories receive crops daily. However, with the onset of the drought, factories are scheduling tea plucking and receiving leaf between three to four days per week," he said.

He said prices had improved marginally in January and February compared with December, but reduced volumes meant this would have limited benefit for farmers.

In a sign of how acute the drought is becoming, there have been several instances of forest fires in the country, with the latest affecting the Rift Valleys' Mau forest, a major water catchment area for Kenya.

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- Reuters


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