The Kenya Tea Development Agency,KTDA has said a Kshs 330 million tea factory dedicated to serve the Japanese market will start operations in the second quarter of next year.
According to the agency, construction of the new tea factory which started in August last year was expected to end in February but due to COVID-19 related disruptions completion date has been moved by at least a year.
KDTA has said the specialty green tea factory which is the first of its kind in the continent will produce specialized Japanese Sencha Green Tea at Kangaita Tea Farm in Kirinyaga County on a pilot basis as it embarks on diversification.
“With Kenya being the third largest producer of tea in the world, KTDA is in the process of diversifying the kind of products we are putting in the market; having started with Orthodox tea and now green tea. This particular plant will process a special type of green tea called Sencha. When successful, this project will be rolled out to the smallholder tea factories,” KTDA Management Services MD Alfred Njagi said during a tour of the facility.
KTDA secured Kshs 150 million from the Japan International Development Corporation, JICA for construction of the tea factory. KTDA Holdings is expected to finance the balance to the tune of Kshs 180 million.
Production of Japanese Sencha Green Tea comes as Kenya continues to witness a decline in production. Latest data from Tea Directorate indicates that Kenya tea production in July alone contracted 5 percent to 38.55 million kilos compared to 40.59 million kilos produced during the same period last year.
Tea exports to Japan in July also reduced 55 percent to stand at 146,615 kilos when compared to the same period last year.
“We are grateful to the Japanese Government for helping fund this project so that we can diversify the products that smallholder tea farmers process in order to ensure that they are cushioned against the fluctuations of black CTC tea prices,” Njagi added.
KTDA has been testing mechanised plucking at the farm, by ensuring tea bushes are prepared for the process when production starts next year according to Japanese standards.
“One of the requirements of processing Japanese Sencha Green Tea is that it should be delivered to the factory within one hour of plucking; it is therefore necessary for us to use mechanized plucking to attain the right quality of green leaf and have it delivered to the factory within the shortest time possible,” Kangaita Tea Farm Assistant Manager Jared Onduso said.
KTDA has already introduced Orthodox tea production to its smallholder tea farmers, with 10 factories already producing the specialty tea which fetches them higher prices than black CTC tea. This is to be progressed further with the piloting of the Sencha tea processing.
Source: Kenya Broadcasting Corporation