Factors Affecting Tea Production in Kenya
Although tea is a major cash crop in Kenya, there are several factors affecting tea production in this country. Tea is a third major earner of foreign exchange in Kenya after horticulture and tourism. GWL Caine introduced tea in 1903 in Limuru. Commercial production of tea in Kenya began in 1924. Black tea is the major tea produced in Kenya with major producers of tea producing white, yellow and green tea.
Today, tea supports many livelihoods of Kenya both indirectly and directly. It also impact on the Kenyan economy. However, there are many factors that affect tea production in Kenya and this implies that these factors affect the livelihoods that depend on tea.
One of the major factors affecting tea production in Kenya is climate change. Just like in other countries, climate change is causing unpredictable harvests. This is because climate change is causing unpredictable amount of rainy and dry seasons. Tea farmers can no longer plan on production activities effectively such as when to apply fertilizers or prune their tea bushes. It is also becoming difficult to plan their future which in turn impact on their productivity.
Usually, yields from tea bushes are high with quality tea at temperature ranging from 18 to 32 degree Celsius. Global warming is causing increase in temperatures by up to 2 degree Celsius making some tea production regions in Kenya unsuitable for this agricultural activity.
Economic Partnership Agreement signed between the ACP and the European Union ended preferential access to trade to EU market for the ACP products with tea included. Creation of the regional markets via regional trade agreements including the East Africa Community is a major element of EPA. The effects of these regional trade agreements on the tea production industry in Kenya are still unknown. For instance, Ugandan businesses have complained about the domination of the market by the competitive Kenyan manufacturing sector.
Globalization is also affecting tea production in Kenya. Globalization causes differences in the economic outcomes for downstream and upstream actors. That is, increased power and profits for the retailers in global-north which affect global-south producers negatively.
For instance, in 2009 Omen which is a research firm indicated that power in the worldwide tea industry is concentrated in four Trans-National companies only. These are Van Rees, Tata Tetley, James Finley and Unilever. These companies influence setting of prices at the tea auctions in Sri-Lanka, India, and Kenya which are the main markets where approximately 70 percent of the worldwide tea is traded.
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