Authorities in the southern district of Nyaruguru are set to increase tea production in the district to help transform people’s lives and the economy.
Nyaruguru mayor, Francois Habitegeko, told reporters on Tuesday that the district targets to increase the number of tea factories from the current two to five by the end of next year.
The construction of one of the factories, which will be based in Kivu Sector, is already in its final stages with the factory expected to start operations in January.
Two more factories are set to be constructed in Munini and Kibeho sectors next year, he said.
The projects are in the context of the public-private partnerships and tea farmers will own part of the shares, Habitegeko said.
Areas covered by tea in the district grew from about 3,800 hectares to over 4,600 hectares between 2011 and 2014, an increase of 46 per cent, according to official figures.
Every year, at least 380 hectares of land in the district are planted with tea in a bid to increase production in a district with acidic soils suitable for the export crop.
“We are putting more efforts in the tea sector because we believe it has the potential to transform people’s lives by generating more revenue and creating more jobs,” Habitegeko said.
Every tea factory employs at least 3,000 people, including those who work in tea plantations, the official said.
“This is a big figure in terms of job creation and it means that so many individuals who were previously unemployed will get a stable source of revenue.”
Some of the fields being used for tea plantation had gone unexploited for years and by helping owners to grow tea, authorities hope to give them an opportunity to generate more revenue.
“There is a lot to benefit from this sector,” Habitegeko noted.
In order to encourage more farmers to embrace tea growing, the government is offering them incentives. Among them is a scheme that helps new farmers in planting and following up their plantations until they grow and helping tea growers to access loans, mainly through the Rwanda Development Bank (BRD), according to the official.
Tea farmers in the district have welcomed the development describing it as an opportunity to improve on their production and subsequently incomes.
“I consider tea as an important source of revenue and a key component in socio-economic development,” said Melanie Niyomukesha, a tea farmer in Ruheru sector.
Farmers, however, are calling for an increase in the price of green tea, decrying that the current Rwf76 per kilogramme remains ‘very little’.
Rwanda is one of the leading tea producers in the world and, over the last few years, the crop has become one of the country’s major foreign exchange earners, alongside tourism, coffee and minerals.
Last year, government announced plans to increase the country’s tea plantations by 18, 000 hectares by the end of 2017.