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January 30, 2010

Tanzania predicts 9.4% increase in tea output

by Phillip Hogan

Africa’s fourth largest tea producer predicts a 9.4% increase in crop yield as estate management improves within the country.

The Tea Board of Tanzania reported that the production of tea may increase to 35,000 metric tons in the twelve months through June, an increase of 9.4% over the previous year. Compared to other countries, Tanzania’s fledgling tea industry has a long way to go before it can compete with the likes of Kenya, Malawi or Uganda – which are currently Africa’s largest tea producers – but recent Government subsidies for small-holder farmers and re-investment and modification of processing factories could help invigorate the country’s once ailing tea industry.

Tea was first introduced into the east African country, in the Amani and Rungwe regions, in 1902 by German settlers. In 1934 Tanzania produced 23 tons of tea; this number increased after World War 2 when the British, ever the tea lovers, took over the management of tea plantations and large scale estates within the country. Tanzania’s tea plantations and estates were steadily increased overtime and in 1960 over 3,722 tons of tea was produced.

Commercial tea production began in earnest in 1966, five years after Tanzania’s independence and the nationalization of large scale estates by the newly formed government. The Tanzanian Tea Authority (TTA) was set up and controlled the country’s tea industry and large estates, also buying tea from small-hold farmers - many of which were encouraged to take up tea farming by the government, at a fixed price.

By the late 1900’s small-holder tea production was on the brink of collapse as economic downturn and stringent price controls, set by the Tea Authority, effectively halted Tanzania’s tea industry as it was unable to compete with their larger neighbours.

The role of the TTA has changed over recent years as foreign investment and loosening of pricing regulations by the government has helped to rekindle the Tanzanian tea industry.

Small-holder associations have also given life to small-scale, independent producers by giving access to resources and markets that were previously unavailable or out of reach.

Tea in Tanzania is either grown by small-holders, on plots averaging less than a hectare, or on large scale estates, often exceeding 1,000 hectares.

Grown in the foot hills in the north and south of the country; Usambara in the Masai Steppe in the North, Njombe and Mufindi regions which border the Great Rift Valley and Lake Malawi in the South.

Drought affected tea production in the east African country last season, cutting crop yields to 14% below targets.

One-third of Tanzania’s tea is now produced by small-scale farmers which number around 36,000. Government subsidies and investment in small-scale farmers and in processing factories, respectively, is seen as the cause of the predicted increase in output.

Tea News

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