Premium prices fuel optimism among Rwanda tea exporters

Women pick tea at Gisakura tea estate, Western Province. The record prices set by Rwandan tea at the Mombassa Auction will embolden the sector . Net photo.

On August 13, Rwanda tea made by Kitabi Tea Company – a tea factory located in Nyamagabe District – fetched the highest price ever recorded at the Weekly Mombasa Tea Auction, outshining lots from other countries. It sold at a record $6.06 (Rwf5,300) per kilogramme.

It was followed by tea from Gisovu Tea Factory, another Rwandan brand, which sold at $5.97 per kilogramme. 

These are the highest prices ever realised at the Mombasa Tea Auction since 1956 when the East African Tea Trade Association (EATTA) was established, according to the National Agricultural Exports Development Board (NAEB).

The achievement has fuelled optimism for greater fortunes among tea growers, exporters and government alike.

Jean Damascène Gasarabwe, Director-General of Kitabi Tea Company, a subsidiary of Rwanda Mountain Tea, said that the factory sold 5,408 kilogrammes (over 5.4 tonnes) at ($6.06 ) a kilogramme) at the auction.

It is the second time Kitabi’s tea has been sold at higher price than any other tea from all countries participating in that auction as it was also holding the previous record of $5.66 a kilogramme, as NAEB indicates.

The achievement, Gasarabwe said, was realised thanks to considerable efforts invested along the entire tea value chain from tea growing by farmers, plucking, to processing, and better management.

The factory, he observed, works with 5,000 farmers. Last year, it produced and traded over 2,500 tonnes of processed tea, and targets to produce and sell 3,000 tonnes this year.

“It is like a student who has emerged the best in class. It gives us motivation and encouragement to work even harder. There is also profit because when you sell at a good price, benefits increase. It is a pride for Rwanda Mountain Tea, and the country’s tea sector,” he said.

NAEB said that the good prices are attributed to the much-valued feedback from the buyers of Rwandan tea and continuous engagement with farmers, pluckers and tea makers together with the Federation of Rwanda Tea Growing Cooperatives (FERWACOTHE) that have always ensured consistent quality much sought after by the market.

“We shall continuously work with tea factories to ensure consistency in the quality of made teas,” said Amb. Bill Kayonga, NAEB CEO.

Statistics from NAEB show in the financial year 2018/2019, Rwandan tea producers exported 30.573 tonnes of tea, which generated more than $83 million from a total area under tea production of 27,112 hectares.

By 2024, Rwanda expects to produce 65,099 tonnes of tea and generate $209 million through exports, according to NAEB. 

The weekly Mombasa tea auction trades tea from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, DR Congo, Malawi, Madagascar, Mozambique and Ethiopia. EATTA says that other countries have expressed their wish to join the association and trade their tea at the Mombasa auction.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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