Rwanda Tea Authority (OCIR-THE) predicts an increase in tea production this year. It forecasts that increased factory capacity and the extension of tea plantations will boost export earnings from $22.8m (Frw12.4b) in 2007 to $26.8m (Frw14.6b) in 2008.
Tea production in Rwanda will increase from 20,432 tonnes of unprocessed tea produced in 2007 to over 22,000 tonnes in 2008, Francesca Tengera, Head of Strategic Management and Planning at OCIR-THE told Business Times.
This represents a ten percent increase in production as compared to the four percent increase in production that was registered in 2005 and 2006.
The construction of tea sheds, the improvement of the road network linking factories to plantations, and the reparation of the drainage system in tea plantations is to improve the productivity of existing plantations. Furthermore, OCIR-THE will provide tea nurseries, laborers to pick the tea and nylon bags in which to transport it. In Gisovu (Western Province), where some of Rwanda lowest quality tea is grown, OCIR-THE, supported by the government, will offer tea farmers incentives in the form of fertilizers and improved seeds.
"We also intend to provide existing factories with new equipment and staff training," Tangera said. In 2007 three tea factories were successfully renovated; their production is expected to double.
According to OCIR-THE the aim is to continue improving the quantity and quality of production. In 2005, 11,650 tones of tea were exported as compared to 12,715 tones exported in 2006, a nine per cent increase.
Tangera added that to make the increase of tea production a reality, fourteen million tea plants will be prepared and planted in nursery beds in various parts of the country. There are already plans to plant seven million seedlings 500 hectares of land in Rutsiro District, (Western Province).
A study on soil quality throughout Rwanda is being carried out by OCIR-THE. It is expected to be completed early this year.
In a related development plan, extension of land used for tea plantations is likely to increase from the 11,674 hectares that cultivated in 2007 to 13,000 hectares in 2008.
Rwanda has ten tea factories; six belong to the OCIR-THE (Mulindi (Northern Province), Shangasha (Western Province), Gisakura (Western Province), Mata (Southern Province), Kitabi (Southern Province) and Gisovu (Western Province)), while the remaining four are privately owned (Rwanda Mountain Tea in Rubaya and Nyabihu (Northern Province), Pfunda Tea Company (Northern Province), Nshili-Kivu (Western Province) and SORWATHE, (Northern Province)).
Rwanda’s production is small compared to Africa’s largest producer, Kenya, but it has adopted a competitive strategy that focuses on quality and the introduction of new specialty teas.
Rwanda, whose economy was devastated by the 1994 genocide, anticipates that increased revenue from tea will help lower the countries high trade deficit and combat poverty.
Rwandan tea is sold predominantly through the tea auction in the Indian Ocean port city of Mombasa, Kenya. Much of Rwanda’s tea is sold to the United Kingdom, Pakistan and Egypt. New consumers recorded this year include Russia, Iran and Yemen. Based on recent developments recorded by OCIR THE, the tea sector is set to play a major role in achieving economic growth and steering Rwanda towards its ‘Vision 2020’.