Govt pledges ‘hard decision’ to save struggling tea industry

By Polycarp Machira , The Guardian
Published at 04:22 AM Apr 03 2024
 Minister for Agriculture, Hussein Bashe
Photo: Guardian Reporter
Minister for Agriculture, Hussein Bashe

THE government has reiterated the commitment to boost the struggling tea subsector at all costs, threatening to ban importation of tea products if need be.

 Minister for Agriculture, Hussein Bashe, made the statement here yesterday, assuring  stakeholders in the subsector  that no tea factory in the country will close due lack of market for the crop as the government will ensure the existing factories continue to operate.
 He said the government has received a notification  letter from one of the tea factories in the country, expressing the intention to close due to bad business trend but it has not approved it.
 According to the minister, the government has appealed to the investor to continue with operations since closure of the factory will only worsen the situation. 

“The government is ready to make the hardest decision such as banning importation of tea in efforts to save the local market” said the minister
 Stakeholders in the subsector decry poor local market for tea due to low production and they now seek the government’s intervention in order to save the cash crop .
 Speaking during the Tea Board of Tanzania’ s annual meeting,  Board Chairperson, Mustafa Umande noted that tea subsector is deemed for failure as production of the crop faces a lot of challenges which can only be solved through government’s interventions.
 However, he said that big percentage of locally produced tea is sold outside the  country, stating that atleast 27 tonnes  out 30 tonnes of tea produced in the country is exported to other countries.
 He added that  ongoing conflicts in Russia, Sudan, Pakistan and Egypt that have had negative economic impacts in several countries across the globe have also affected international prices of tea.
 In addition , he said shortage of dollar in Sudan, Pakistan and Egypt  has also contributed in shaking  tea market since Pakistan is the biggest buyer of tea from East Africa, purchasing at least 40 percent of the total regional produce.
 On the other hand, he argued that production of the crop by  smallholder  farmers in the country has declined and is of low quality due to lack of farm inputs caused by big debts owed to them by tea factories.
 He said tea factories owe farmers a total of 2.8bn/- and they are not sure if  they will get their money due to ever dwindling market. The situation, he noted, has made the farmers not reach the required standards of production.
 He said poor market has not only affected Tanzania only but other countries as well, citing Uganda which has closed down over nine tea factories whileTanzania has managed to save three factories that were about to close..
 “The government should intervene and help save  the tea subsector as some farmers have resorted to uprooting tea crops, replacing them with other crops”,he said.
 Tea Board of Tanzania director Mary Kipeja appealed to the government to strengthen local tea market as only a small percentage of locally produced  tea is consumed in the country.
 She said many farmers have lost hope in tea farming because they do not have enough money for production and since payment for last season’s sales have not been effected.