Kenya expects 2006 tea production to drop more than 10 percent

NAIROBI, June 26, 2006 (AFP) – Kenyan tea production dipped in May and is expected to fall between 10 and 16 percent in 2006 compared with a year earlier due to less rainfall and the lingering effects of a just-ended drought, officials said Monday. The Tea Board of Kenya (TBK) said May output dropped by 8.0 percent to 26.4 million kilogrammes (58 million pounds) from 28.7 million kilogrammes recorded in the same month last year, a sign production of the country’s leading export would continue to fall in coming months.

“The decline in production was attributed to unfavourable weather conditions owing to the ending of the ‘long rains’ season over most parts of the country and the effects of hail in a few tea growing districts,” the TBK said in a statement.

“Cumulative production lagged behind the output for the same period last year by 36.3 million kilogrammes due to severe drought experienced in tea growing regions during the first quarter of the year,” it said.

“The shortfall has given an indication that annual tea production for this year may drop by between 10 and 16 percent,” the TBK said, adding that monthly output between June and August would likely fall below 25 million kilogrammes.

Despite the declines, it said tea exports rose 6.0 percent in May over the same period last year to 28.1 million kilogrammes while export earnings rose significantly by 39 percent from 42 million dollars (33 million euros) to 58 million dollars.

Of the 33 countries to which Kenya exports tea, Egypt was the top buyer of the commodity followed by Pakistan, traditionally the biggest importer, while Britain and Sudan came third and fourth, the TBK said. It added that local tea consumption was increasing, due to an advertising promotion campaign aimed at boosting the domestic market.