Tea sector players set new standards to boost quality
Rwanda’s tea industry could be destined for a better year following a consensus among key sector players to increase the liquor quality benchmark to at least 7 out of the possible 11 aggregates.
According to the National Agriculture Export Board (NAEB) achieving such a standard will not only boost the quality of tea exports, but will also improve competitiveness of the tea industry.
We should aspire to achieve an average of 7 aggregates of green leaf standard mark out of 11 aggregates, which is the maximum benchmark in quality of green tea leaves, George William Kayonga, the Naeb Chief Executive officer, told farmers during a recent national forum for tea farmers. He emphasised the need to boost quality along the value chain of supply in 2015.
“We target to improve factory processing efficiency that meets customer demands and enhance the value and volume of tea exports through value addition and product diversification,” Kayonga said.
He noted that the idea is to make the tea sector sustainable and competitive globally while enhancing its contribution to the national economy.
The efforts to boost quality along the value chain follows recently signed agreements between government and tea cooperatives to boost production across the county.
The tea industry registered a slight decline in production during 2013 and the first 11 months of 2014. According to statistics, very few tea cooperatives and factories scored above 7 aggregates according to the 2013 -2014 quality liquor indicators on the quality and pricing of tea.
According to experts, if sector players don’t work hard to improve quality standards along the value chain, it could hurt the industry.
Government through EDPRS II is targeting to increase production from current 27,597.8 metric tons (MT) to 41,070.5 metric tons by 2018 and it’s through emphasizing quality that such targets will be achieved.
According to sector performance targets 2014-215, the sector’s productivity for the last 11 months was established at 22,202 metric tons (MT) compared to the projected 27,592 by the end of 2014 and 22,715 metric tons in 2013.
Over the past 11 months, the tea sector has so far fetched $48.2m which is still low compared to the annual target of $68.6m and $53.7m baseline.
The low productivity has been attributed to last year’s drought among other factors.
According to most farmers, low production was as a result of prolonged drought the country experienced in 2013.
“Despite these challenges, we are still below the capacity and we must do more to improve both production and quality.”
“Prices on the international market were very low. That is why we want to achieve the minimum of at least 7 out of the maximum, in terms of quality to be able to compete. Stake holders need to understand that there is always a positive coloration between price and quality,” Kayonga stressed.