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Kenya’s tea industry moves toward strategic diversification

Kenya’s tea industry moves toward strategic diversification

Reducing a reliance on bulk black tea is a key objective for Kenya as it looks to boost revenue from one of its flagship agricultural sectors.

Kenya is the world’s leading exporter of black tea, which accounts for 95% of the country’s overall tea production, making it one of its main agricultural exports.

Tea exports generated earnings of KSh125.3bn ($1.23bn) in 2015, a 23% increase from the previous year. The jump in revenue was the result of higher prices due in large part to a weaker harvest, with 2015 crop yields at 399.2m kg, a 10% year-on-year decrease, according to data from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Authority (AFFA).

Prospects for 2016 are somewhat more muted, with overseas tea sales predicted to generate between KSh115bn ($1.14bn) and KSh120bn ($1.19bn).

Diversifying the sector

To ensure tea stays a major contributor to GDP and to boost segment earnings, the government is working to broaden the industry’s base, diversifying production away from a dependence solely on black tea.

In early March Samuel Ogola, technical services manager of the AFFA’s Tea Directorate, announced the government would unveil new guidelines for manufacturing specialty teas before the end of the second quarter.

“The new guidelines will help increase the availability of planting material and manufacturing facilities, which are required to enable farmers [to] embrace the new tea varieties,” he told media.

Under the new guidelines, smaller producers – those with less than 8 ha of land under cultivation – will be permitted to grow a variety of new crops and more importantly, establish facilities to process their crops rather than sell in bulk, which is currently the case.

“We want to increase tea industry earnings by encouraging farmers to embrace specialty tea varieties, such as white, purple and orthodox tea, which have a high value,” Ogola said.

For its part, the industry has broadly welcomed plans to expand the production base.

“Though take up of new varieties has been limited, with black tea continuing to dominate the market, there is a definite need to create product diversity,” Peter Kimanga, director of Gold Crown Beverages, told OBG. “The government has done a good job of ensuring Kenyan tea is pesticide-free and ‘clean’, which is ideal for premium quality branding and in line with international preferences. This should be a key selling point.”

In addition to expanding the tea varieties produced, Kenyan producers are also looking to diversify their export markets.

At present, around 77% of the country’s output is sold to a handful of source markets – namely, Egypt, Pakistan, the UK, the UAE and Sudan, according to figures from the East Africa Tea Trading Auction (EATTA).

Looking ahead, Kenya aims to target high-growth markets, in particular China and Iran, which could offer greater market stability.

“Bilateral trade agreements should be a focus for the tea industry, as the country needs to work to open up new markets and diversify export destinations,” Edward Mudibo, managing director and chairman of the Agriculture Industries Network, told OBG.

Balancing water resources

Although diversification is likely to boost the sector’s sustainability and export income, Kenya’s tea industry still faces challenges.

Lower rainfall and more frequent drought conditions, as were experienced in 2015, have proven problematic for producers, and the risk of continued climate change may prolong those pressures.

While last year’s drought temporarily pushed tea prices up due to supply-side shortages, extended dry periods could see farmland degradation, increased pest infestation and long-term crop loss.

At present, only 20% of Kenya’s landmass is suitable for non-irrigated farming, with agriculture coming under pressure from growing urbanisation in regions where water is abundant.

With agriculture directly accounting for 24% of Kenya’s GDP and more than half of its export earnings, according to the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, loss of farmland and a reduction in water resources could pose significant challenges to the tea industry in coming years.

The introduction of drought-resistant strains, such as the TRFK 306 variety, a strain of purple tea developed by the Kenya Tea Research Institute, is one response to the threat of global warming and lower rainfall in Kenya’s key tea-producing regions.

By developing and utilising strains that require less water, Kenya’s producers may not only be able to mitigate the effects of reduced rainfall, but also offset the loss of prime arable land to urban sprawl by cultivating land that was previously seen as unsuitable for tea production.

 

If drinking alcohol, make smart choices Know Your Limits

HOUSTON (Feb. 21, 2011) – The Harris County Hospital District encourages people to carefully consider the consequences of consuming alcohol, and reminds everyone that in Texas only people over the age of 21 can legally drink alcohol. If drinking in celebration of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, Mardi Gras, St. Patrick’s Day, the NCAA’s March Madness College Basketball Tournament or any occasion, the hospital district wants you know your limits.  

“Most people do abstain from alcohol or drink it responsibly and within recommended limits — social drinking — and that’s fine,” says Dr. Alicia Ann Kowalchuk, medical director, Harris County Hospital District’s InSight, an early alcohol and drug intervention program. “It’s the others who don’t follow the recommended levels whom we’re concerned about, and the ones who tend to pose the most danger to themselves and others in the community.”

For those who drink.

Here are some healthy drinking limit guidelines from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA):

  • Men under the age of 65:
    • Fewer than five drinks per occasion
    • No more than 14 drinks per week

 

  • Women of all ages, and men older than the age of 65:
    • Fewer than four drinks per occasion
    • No more than seven drinks per week

 

“Alcohol absorption and metabolism are different in men and women and change as we age,” Kowalchuk says. “Absorption is how alcohol gets into the bloodstream from the stomach, and metabolism is the way the body processes or breaks down alcohol. This means women get more alcohol in their bloodstream from each drink compared to men.”

 

But what constitutes a drink?

The NIAAA recommends the following guidelines for standard drink amounts:

  • 12 ounces of regular beer, ale or malt liquor
  • 1.5 ounces or one shot of 80-proof whiskey, gin or vodka
  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 12 ounces of wine cooler
  • 4 ounces of sherry, liqueur or aperitif

 

For some people it’s not safe or healthy to drink at all. 

You should not drink if you:

  • are pregnant or may become pregnant
  • have a history of alcohol abuse or dependence
  • have health conditions that may be made worse by drinking, such as liver problems
  • take medication that interacts with alcohol
  • are going to be driving
  • are under the legal drinking age

 

Unsure if you have a problem?

Kowalchuk has some warning signs. She recommends you seek immediate care if you are unable to drink within healthy limits or have any of the following, which may indicate a more severe problem, such as alcohol addiction:

  • Difficulty completing routine tasks at work, school or home due to your drinking
  • Hazardous use such as driving while intoxicated
  • Legal problems related to drinking alcohol
  • Social or relationship problems due to your drinking
  • Needing to drink more now than before to get the same effect
  • Feeling shaky, nervous, irritable, upset stomach or headache if you don’t drink for a time or when you drink less than usual
  • Needing a drink first thing when you wake up to feel better or steady your nerves
  • Drinking more than you intend or feel like your drinking is out of control.

 

In the United States, alcohol use is related to more than 105,000 deaths every year. It accounts for about $167 billion a year in lost productivity and costs associated with criminal justice and healthcare. In Texas alone, the cost is about $16.4 billion a year.

 

The Harris County Hospital District recommends people with alcohol problems seek immediate care from their primary care physician. For more information on the topic, visit the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism at www.niaaa.nih.gov/

  

The Harris County Hospital District (hchdonline.com) is the community-owned healthcare system for the nation’s third most-populous county. Providing care during more than 1.4 million visits each year to residents of Harris County, the hospital district operates Ben Taub General Hospital, Lyndon B. Johnson General Hospital, Quentin Mease Community Hospital, 13 community health centers, the nation’s first free-standing HIV/AIDS treatment facility, a dialysis center, a dental center, nine school-based clinics, 13 homeless shelter clinics and five mobile health units. Harris County Hospital District has received the prestigious National Committee for Quality Assurance designation for its network of patient-centered medical homes. The hospital district is staffed by faculty and residents from world-renowned medical school partners, Baylor College of Medicine and The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

 

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