Kenya tea production up, but still recovering from drought

NAIROBI, Oct 30, 2006 (AFP) – Kenya’s tea production surged eight percent in the third quarter of this year from last but remains below the 2005 cumulative total due to the lingering effects of a killer drought, officials said Monday. Production shot up between July and September to 75 million kilos (165 million pounds million pounds) from 69 million kilos (152 million pounds) over the same period last year, the Tea Board of Kenya (TBK) said.

However, because of the drought that hit Kenya particularly hard, it said production was still down 11 percent, at 209 million kilos (461 million pounds) compared to 236 million kilos (520 million pounds) for the year.

“The decline in cumulative output was attributed to lower production during the first quarter occasioned by the effects of drought which was more pronounced in tea-growing areas,” TBK’s director Sicily Kariuki said.

She attributed improved third-quarter production to favorable weather conditions and said that with the onset of the “short rains” season earlier this month, the fourth quarter would produce even more.

Meanwhile, third-quarter tea exports from Kenya, the world’s leading exporter, declined by 12 percent to 86 million kilos (190 million pounds) from 99 million (219 million pounds) from last year, TBK said.

Egypt was the leading export destination for Kenya tea, importing 22 million kilos (49 million pounds) or 25 percent of the total, once again of perennial top importer Pakistan, which bought 20 million kilos (44 million pounds), it said. Britain was third, followed by Sudan and Afghanistan respectively, TBK said.