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Drought affects tea production.

What is probably the severest drought in Southern and Eastern Africa in living memory is having an adverse effect on all agricultural production, including tea, in countries as far apart as Kenya and Zimbabwe, with a consequent rise in tea prices to the highest levels since January 1991 at the London auctions.

Kenya: Not only is Kenyan tea production being affected by the poor weather conditions, but it is also being affected by inter-tribal fighting among pickers on tea estates in western Kenya. Some workers have fled to escape violent conflict.

Top Kenyan brokerage firm, African Tea Brokers (ATB), reported that, although some areas west of the Rift Valley had received intermittent showers, overall rainfall in all tea-growing areas was below normal.

This extended period of dry weather had resulted in marked losses in crop production. Any rain that fell would now have to be substantial in order to stabilize and reverse the situation.

The ATB added that tea bushes were under stress in all areas and, consequently, production would progressively decline in all areas.

Officials of the Kenya Tea Board (KTB) said that this year's production would not match last year's record crop of 202 million kg. For the first two months of 1992, production was just over 13 million kg, a fall of 3.6 million kg or nearly 22%.

A KTB official added that, with such a trend and with no improvements in the overall situation in sight, production was expected to fail still further.

With Kenya's population increasing almost threefold since independence from Great Britain in December 1963 to a current figure of about 25 million, pressure on land is building up, especially in the more fertile areas in western Kenya. This has led to the socalled "land clashes" which erupted last November and, to date, has resulted in over 300 people being killed in the worst tribal violence since independence.

Since the violence started, farmers in western Kenya have neglected their crops, and pickers have left their jobs during the violence and demanded that their employers return them to their home areas.

Kenya's tea production has increased tenfold from 20.2 million kg in 1964 worth US$22 million to the 1991 figure which earned the country US$265 million in foreign currency, second only to the country's US$400 million tourist industry.

Uganda: Despite the fall in tea production in Kenya, the scene in neighboring Uganda is completely different, with officials of the Uganda Tea Board (UTB) painting a much more rosy picture.

Tea output plummeted during the civil war years and brutal dictatorships of the 70's and 80's, but production has now been boosted by a government program of freeing exports and reducing foreign currency controls, including the abolition of UTB's export monopoly, thereby allowing traders to export tea directly.

Output rose to 8,806,000 kg in 1991 from 6,740,000 kg in 1990, according to an UTB official who added that production was expected to pass the target of 10 million kg this year. In 1964, the first year of independence from Great Britain, 7,632,000 kg of tea were produced. Overall progress in tea production has been minimal since independence.

Zimbabwe: All Zimbabwe's tea is produced in the eastern districts where rainfall is high-- in excess of 40 inches per year. However, this last rainy season, October to April, has been one of the driest in living memory, with less than one third of normal rainfall.

This has had a marked effect on tea production. Not only have dryland crops suffered, but so have irrigated crops where water supplies for pumping have been exhausted. Once irrigation could no longer be continued, tea bushes soon became stressed, while dryland bushes, because of their more extensive root system, have been better able to withstand the adverse weather.

Tanganda Tea Company Limited, the largest producer of tea within Zimbabwe, accounting for about 50% of the country's total production, recently announced that, although the season began satisfactorily, with the crop to the end of November being ahead of last season, by the end of February the crop was marginally down as the effect of the drought began to affect the crop.

During January and February, normally the wettest months in Zimbabwe, rainfall was only 20% of the decennial average and, in March and April, rainfall was negligible on the company's estates.

It was further reported that, to date, mature tea plantations have survived the drought satisfactorily and could be expected to produce normally in the event of a good start of the coming rainy season. However, it was unlikely that any late rains this season would have a material effect on the current crop.

The second half crop was now estimated to be 733 tons, compared with 7, 493 tons, down 30% from the previous year.

Overall tea production in Zimbabwe could be down by about one third during the current production season, to approximately 10,000 tons.

Malawi's tea production is also likely to be down, again due to the drought. The current political troubles in the country could also affect production. In 1990, tea accounted for 12% of the value of Malawi's total exports, a poor second to tobacco's 70%.

Uganda: Reduced earnings for

coffee industry

Uganda's coffee industry has begun to show the effects of decades of neglect and insensitivity to the needs of peasant farmers. Export receipts from the country's leading foreign currency earner have plummeted, and production is falling.

In 1988, coffee exports earned US$264 million, which represented over 90% of all export earnings and had been the pattern for many years.

During the past few years, the drop in production has been particularly steep. The Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development recently reported that deliveries to the state-run Coffee Marketing Board (CMB) have dropped from 160,000 tons in 1989 to 129,000 tons in 1991.

Figures released by the CMB show that shipments through the ports of Mombasa in Kenya and Dar-esSalaam in Tanzania in the 1991-92 season have dropped by 19% compared to the previous season when about 1,400,000 bags were loaded at the two ports.

In 1989-90, Uganda exported about 2,300,000 bags of coffee through these two main East African ports. Foreign receipts from this crop have dropped from US$140 million to US$110 million for the 1990-91 crop.

Sources within the Ugandan coffee industry attribute the decline in revenue to the neglect and frustrations suffered by growers over several years. These same sources added that the Ugandan Government had more or less taken the coffee crop for granted without prompting any new investment within the industry. Many of the country's coffee trees are over 40 years old, i.e they were planted before independence in October 1962.

Not only has the collapse of the International Coffee Agreement in July 1989 contributed to the decline in growers' interest in the crop, but so have massive corruption in marketing, a poorly managed crop finance scheme, and low prices paid to growers.

In spite of the plunge in its production and earnings from exports, coffee still plays a major role in Uganda's foreign trade. Currently, coffee accounts for just over half of the country's export earnings.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) reports that the quantity of coffee exported by many African less developed countries had declined steadily since 1970.

In contrast, throughout the rest of the world, coffee production has increased by 2.1% per year from about 3.9 million to 6 million tons over the same period.

The major coffee producers and exporters in Africa, namely Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and the Central African Republic, accounted for 82% of total production from the continent in 1990.

Between 1970 and 1990, coffee exports from Uganda have declined by 25.7%, and those from Ethiopia by 9.9%.

A recent evaluation of trade and balance of payment problems in some African less developed countries states that in the two countries above, the coffee crop has been neglected for decades, and the decline in real producers' prices has eroded incentives for replanting and correct maintenance of plantations.

Kenya: Tea production continues to fall

Further to earlier reports, tea production in Kenya continues to decline. A leading brokerage firm, African Tea Brokers (ATB) reported that tea production for the four months to the end of April was 56.58 million kg, down 11.43 million kg or 16.8% over the same period last year.

In April alone, tea harvested dropped by over 5 million kg or 29% compared to the same month in 1991.

Part of the decline can be attributed to tribal unrest in Western Kenya where over 130 people have been killed in ethnic violence since March.

Widespread seasonal rain has been reported in all tea growing areas to which the crop had responded well; however, in some areas growth had been inhibited by low temperatures. With milder weather, leaf intake is expected to show a marked improvement.

Ivory Coast: Suffering from

low coffee prices

The decline in coffee as well as in cocoa prices is having a major effect on the mainly agricultural economy of the Ivory Coast. Cocoa is the leading export, followed by coffee.

Once seen as a haven of stability, the country has become increasingly tense since the prices of these two commodities began to fall in the 1980's. Violent crime is common, and there have been sporadic strikes and political demonstrations over the austerity measures resulting from the price declines.

The state commodities board, Caisse de Stabilisation (Caistab), is highly unlikely in the short term to cut producer prices for fear of causing unrest. Veteran president, Felix Hauphouet-Boigny, still firmly in control despite political and economic reforms, prefers to foot the subsidy bill rather than disturb the population. The country is already burdened with finding an estimated 23 billion CTA francs (US$85 million) this year to subsidize coffee production and exports.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:tea and coffee production in Southern and Eastern Africa
Author:Kille, Turville
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Oct 1, 1992
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