Kenyan tea production drops nearly four percent in first quarter 2005

NAIROBI, May 23 (AFP) – Kenya, one of the world’s largest tea exporters, suffered a nearly four percent drop in production in the first quarter of 2005 due to poor weather conditions, the Tea Board of Kenya (TBK) said Monday. In the first three months of the year, tea production fell by 3.79 percent (3,300 tonnes) from the 88,100 tonnes recorded in the same period in 2004 because of a lack of rain in a key tea growing area, it said in a statement.

“The decline in production was occasioned by unfavorable weather conditions experienced in tea growing regions east of Rift Valley,” the board said, adding that rains since March were expected to make up some of the decline.

It projected though that the poor first quarter performance would affect total production for 2005, translating into a decline of 4,000 tonnes, from 324,000 tonnes in 2004, to 320,000 tonnes.

In April — based on the 2004 figures, themselves an increase of 10.5 percent over 2003, the Kenya Tea Development Agency said Kenya had surpassed Sri Lanka as the world’s top tea exporter.

At the time the agency said Pakistan remained Kenya’s largest tea importer despite threats early this year from Islamabad to effectively shut the market after Nairobi hiked the import duty on Pakistani rice by more than 100 percent.

The row was resolved when the Kenyan Revenue Authority released some 8,000 containers of Pakistani rice at the usual 35-percent tariffs instead of the 75 percent that took effect when the East African Community Customs Union entered into force on January 1.

Other top buyers of Kenyan tea include Egypt, Afghanistan and Sudan.