KINIHIRA — Sorwathe, Rwanda’s first tea factory to obtain the ISO 22000:2005 and Fairtrade Certification, recently unveiled a new orthodox tea factory in Kinihira in Rulindo district.
Cally Alles, the Director General of Sorwathe, said recently that the new factory for Rwanda’s first orthodox tea would cost the company about $2.2 million, which includes the cost of construction and the cost of the machinery.
Officials said that diversification and value addition is the purpose of this investment, which is in line with government policy. The new tea factory has the capacity to produce 700,000 Kilograms per year of black orthodox tea and green tea.
It is set to boost the capacity of tea production at Sorwathe and enter a hitherto unexplored market.
Orthodox tea is produced using rollers, with tables fitted with seasoned timber making the tea more delicate, more flavoured and less in strength compared to the CTC teas normally made in Rwanda.
“Sorwathe is the first tea industry player to manufacture orthodox tea in Rwanda. I personally remain convinced that the introduction of orthodox tea is a great value addition to the local tea industry,” Christopher Bazivamo, Minister of Agriculture said during the unveiling of the facility.
”It is an achievement to be listed as an example of companies making good investments in the country which targets a number of interventions in rural areas.
This in turn has a potential of changing peoples lives for a better future for this country,” he added.
Cally Alles also added that Sorwathe’s main focus has been to produce quality products which has helped the company find a ready market in almost all tea consuming countries.
“With the commissioning of the new factory, Sorwathe is hopeful to attract more buyers in local and foreign markets. Its garden mark ‘Rukeri’ has a very good reputation of being consistent in quality and is exported to US, UK, Canada, Ireland, South Africa and Pakistan,” he said.
“Joe Wertheim, the founder of Sorwathe, in a bid to continue his legacy to the tea industry has brought his son Andrew Wertheim, a lawyer by profession, into the business and his contribution has been invaluable in every aspect of the operations,” he added.
Sorwathe is the first private tea factory in Rwanda and commenced its operations in 1975. It is a leader in the tea industry and has been pioneer in many respects.
They have introduced several innovations to the tea industry in Rwanda that have improved the quality and quantity of Rwanda tea.
The decision to invest in the new factory emanates from Sorwathe’s desire to diversify its product range. The tea factory is also the first in Rwanda to be an ‘Ethical Tea Partnership’ participant.
Over the years the production of Sorwathe has increased and peaked at 3.6 million kilograms of black CTC tea in 2007. Sorwathe continues to be the largest (single factory) producer in the country and accounted for 15 percent of the total national production last year.
Twenty five percent of its green leaf is grown on its own estate and seventy five percent is sourced from Assopthe, a cooperative of 4,456 smallholder tea farmers.
Sorwathe made a wonderful gesture (at the open air meeting with the population in Kinihira) by announcing that Assopthe had become a shareholder of Sorwathe and requested the Minister Bazivamo to present the shares certificate for 13.33 percent to the tea farmers.
In so doing, Sorwathe became the first tea factory in Rwanda to legalise this transaction, which will be a great source of joy and encouragement to the local tea farmers.