Relief as Nyamasheke gets Rwf10.5bn tea factory

Tea growers in Nyamasheke District will no longer have to worry about where to sell their produce following the opening of multibillion factory in the area.
Workers monitor the production process./ Frederic Byumvuhore.
Workers monitor the production process./ Frederic Byumvuhore.

Tea growers in Nyamasheke District will no longer have to worry about where to sell their produce following the opening of multibillion factory in the area.

The $12.3 million (over Rwf10.5 billion) Gatare Tea Company will enable farmers access a reliable and ready market, Josue Michel Ntaganira, the Nyamasheke vice-mayor in charge of economic development, said. He added that, previously, a lot of tea was going to waste due to lack of a processing plant in the area.

“We are optimistic that the new factory will increase tea production in the district. It also comes at the time when the district has been repairing feeder roads to ease movement of goods and people, as well as increasing access to markets,” Ntaganira said.

Located in Rushyarara cell, Karambi sector, Gatare Tea Company is a joint venture between Rwanda Mountain Tea and Tea Co-operative of Gatare Farmers (COTHEGA). It is also supported by the district and is the second tea processing plant in the district. The other one is Gisakura Tea factory located in Bushekeri sector.

Elier Ukurikiyimfura, the president of COTHEGA, said farmers did not have where to supply their tea, causing a lot of it to waste away. “Farmers have been travelling long distances to sell the tea at Gisovu Tea factory in neighbouring district of Karongi. This means that some of the tea would get spoilt before being sold off,” he said.

Therefore, the new factory will help reduce this wastage and also spur production and farmers’ income, he added. The facility, which started its operations in December, is expected to benefit 3,000 farmers from Macuba and Karambi sectors.

The co-operative has a 15 per cent stake in the project and the factory will rely on out-growers for supply of green leaf tea.

Reducing losses

Ukurikiyimfura estimates that farmers could have lost 280 tonnes of green leaf worth Rwf80 million since 2010. They have also been spending a lot of money on hiring trucks to transport the tea.

According to district officials, tea growing contributes about Rwf1.8 billion of the farmers’ income per year. The district produces close to 10 million kilogrammes of tea per year.

Production capacity

Fred Rwagasana, the managing director of Gatare Tea Company, said they target to produce 6,000 tonnes per year, adding that once the supply increases the production will be doubled to 12,000 tonnes. Currently, the factory receives 15 tonnes of green leaf per day, but it has the capacity to produce 20 tonnes daily.

It employs 200 workers, including extension staff, tea pickers and factory employees.

Rwagasana said Gatare has embraced internationally-recognised sustainable production and agricultural practices to boost competitiveness of its tea.

Farmers speak out

Pascal Nzaramba said farmers were making losses because they would travel long distances to the factory in Karongi.

“We are hopeful that now we will be able to make more money since the factory is near,” Nzaramba added. Jacqueline Nyirampakaniye said their tea would lose quality as it took about five hours to reach Gisovu Tea factory.

“For instance, one would take 200 kilogrammes of green leaf to the factory, but only 60 kilos would meet the quality because of delays to deliver within the recommended time due to long distances.”

NAEB targets to increase tea export receipts to $94.9 million by the end of 2018, up from $65.7 million in 2013. Rwanda fetched over $23 million from tea exports in the first quarter of 2017, an increase from $18.9 million recorded over the same period the previous year.