Sorwathe, one of the oldest tea companies in Rwanda on Friday unveiled a new green tea factory worth over Rwf1 billion in Kinihira sector, Rulindo district in the Northern Province.
According to company officials, the factory will exclusively produce green tea whose demand has globally been increasing over the years.
“Green tea is something that is being thought about all over the world because of its health benefits. We embarked on this because buyers have been asking for this tea for quite some time,” RohithPeiris, Sorwathe’s Director General said.
With the new plant, Peiris indicated that the more than 40-year old family-owned business will now be able to supply tea that buyers want and satisfy the current demand.
The head of the company also highlighted that expanding their operations will give them a competitive edge in green tea business in Rwanda and in the region.
The new factory has a capacity to produce more than 300,000 kilogrammes of organic tea.
During the commissioning of the plant, officials said that more employment opportunities will be provided to the farmers and other community members, and in particular women.
The factory was commissioned at a mega ceremony that brought together hundreds of tea farmers and citizens in Kinihira village as well as high ranking officials in the country.
Some people had a chance to tour the new factory and get a taste of the green tea that Sorwathe will be producing.
This kind of tea produces more pronounced, robust, and clearer flavours and aromas than their traditionally produced counterparts. It is this that many argue is attracting more people to the tea.
More specifically, green tea demand is being driven by consumer awareness owing to the health benefits it carries. It is believed that green can reduce the effect of cholesterol, cancer cells, and cures head and body aches.
The green tea market is indeed gaining immense popularity across the globe and is anticipated to witness robust growth throughout the forecast period.
According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation, global output of green tea is foreseen to increase at an even faster rate of 7.5 percent annually to reach 3.6 million tonnes in 2027, largely driven by countries like China, India and a few emerging countries.
Sorwathe wants to tap into this potential and the changing consumer perception.
They anticipate that the production capacity of the new plant could help the company fetch about $1.2 million as the cost of the kilogramme of green tea is expected to be around $4 (about Rwf3,498.6).
The company already produces other varieties of teas, including orthodox (whole leaf tea), white tea, and black teas. It exports to the United States (US), United Kingdom (UK), Canada, Ireland, South Africa, Japan, China, Pakistan and France.
Over the years the production of Sorwathe has increased and currently is around 3.5 million kilogrammes made tea per annum. This is around 15 per cent of the country’s total production and continues to be the largest producer in the country.
Andrew Wertheim, the Chairman of Sorwathe, said their vision is to become the most innovative company in producing orthodox tea, tea bags and packaged tea for retail sale.
“When my father, Joe Werthiem, started Sorwathe in 1975, his vision was to improve the lives of people in surrounding communities through tea. To achieve this goal, we want Sorwathe to be the most innovative tea factory in Rwanda,” he remarked.
Push for more action
Northern Province Governor Jean Marie Vianney Gatabazi, who officiated at the commissioning of the plant, urged the citizens of both Rulindo and the neighbouring Gicumbi district to get more involved in tea farming, given its value in transforming their lives.
“The family of Wertheim has promoted a spirit of community development through tea farming, which has contributed significantly to the transformation of many of your lives. I want to urge you to get more involved in tea farming because we have seen its value,” he told the locals who had gathered at the opening ceremony.
Gatabazi said that this is also in line with the country’s vision of promoting tea as a cash crop that will greatly transform the lives of Rwandans, highlighting that the government is more committed than ever to promote this crop.
Currently, there is about 1,339 hectares of land on which tea is grown on in Kinihira village with Sorwathe occupying 296 hectares. Nearly 4,000 people are involved in tea farming in this area.
However, district officials revealed that they are working to make sure that local farmers increase their productivity. Today, farmers can produce only 10 tons of tea on one hectare, while Sorwathe produces 14 tons on the same piece of land.
According to the National Agricultural Export Development Board (NAEB), tea is currently the country’s largest agricultural export.
Last year, it generated around $88 million and the country targets to generate $92 million by the end of this year. Tea is currently grown on 26,897ha by 42,840 farmers across 12 districts.
Rwanda’s tea production has increased significantly over the years from 14,500 tonnes in 2000 to 25,128 tons in 2017.