Global coordinated actions should aim at promoting demand for tea

18May 2020
Editor
The Guardian
Global coordinated actions should aim at promoting demand for tea

Tea is the manufactured drink most consumed in the world. Discovered about 2700 BC, it is one of the oldest beverages in the world.

International Tea Day is observed annually on May 21, according to the United Nations.  International Tea Day aims to draw global attention of governments and citizens to the impact of the global tea trade on workers and growers, and has been linked to requests for price supports and fair trade

The global tea market reached a volume of 6.2 million tonness in 2018. The market is further projected to reach a volume of 7.58 million tonnes by 2024.

Tea manufacturers have introduced health-oriented products by adding several healthy ingredients to their organic tea formulations in order to target some of the common health conditions including diabetes, beauty, obesity, heart health.  Therefore, a shift towards the consumption of organic tea acts as an emerging trend which is having a positive impact on the growth of the tea market.

Another major factor driving the growth of tea is its strong consumer acceptance. Currently, it represents the world's most consumed beverage after water. It has very high penetration levels in Asia and Europe with people consuming tea on a daily basis.

Tea represents an inexpensive beverage and is consumed across all socio-economic consumer groups.   Black tea is the most popular type of tea as it is anti-allergic, anti-viral and anti-spasmodic.

Today, Tanzania produces 15-18,000 tonnes of processed tea annually from a planted area of around 19,000 ha. Only Kenya and Malawi in Africa produce more. About 75 per cent of the production is exported and tea has become the third largest foreign exchange generator in the Tanzanian agricultural sector.

The first experimental tea was planted in 1904 by German settlers at the Agricultural Research Station at Amani, near Tanga and at the Kyimbila Mission near Tukuyu.

Until 1978 research support for the industry was provided by the Tea Research Institute of East Africa with its sub-station in Amani.

Tanzania stopped importing tea in 1979. Of the tea exported about 60 per cent goes to the UK. The Sudan comes second and other important markets include Ireland, Canada, Pakistan, the USA, Somalia, W. Germany, the Netherlands and Ethiopia.The tea industry has been going through a difficult period. In the estate sector there are soon going to be problems of continuity with many expatriate senior managers approaching retirement age. Recruiting qualified Tanzanian staff is difficult because the estates cannot reward them adequately for the responsibility they are charged with or for the necessity of living away from the main towns. There is also a lack of adequate training at all levels of the industry and an urgent need to establish a viable and relevant research and extension programme staffed by well qualified people.

However, during the last year confidence has increased despite recent reductions in the world price of tea. This is partly due to changes in government economic policies and to devaluation which has led to new investments and expansion plans. Given that this new-found confidence is supported by real improvements in the well-being and living standards of all those associated with the industry, then the tea industry seems set to develop again in a positive way.

By 1934 there were an estimated 28,700 farmers producing 4,000 tonnes of processed tea from about 9,000 ha. Most smallholder grown tea is individually managed and is planted either in isolated patches or within a larger block comprising all the tea from one village. The average holding is about 0.3 hectares, the largest being about 5 hectares. Much of the tea is clonal.

Fertiliser and herbicides are supplied by Kereku, the Cooperative Union and these inputs are paid for by a flat rate levy on all green leaf sold to the Tanzania Tea Authority  which was established in 1968 and manages the planting and processing .

Until independence in 1961 tea production was wholly in the hands of foreign companies, or private estates. Then began a rapid development of production by smallholders.

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