KTDA Chief Executive Lerionka Tiampati. [file, Standard]
Tea production has dropped by a quarter to 705.2 million kilogrammes in the nine months to March 2017.
This is compared to 936.6 million kilogrammes that was produced in a similar period last year.
Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) has attributed the drop to the prolonged drought that has affected various tea-producing areas in the country, with the worst-hit counties being Kirinyaga, Nyeri and Embu.
February this year recorded the worst production levels, with green leaf delivered by farmers to factories managed by KTDA dropping by 52 per cent to 54.3 million kilogrammes.
This is compared to 114 million kilogrammes produced in February 2016.
March saw a drop of 35.8 per cent to 77.9 million kilogrammes.
KTDA Chief Executive Lerionka Tiampati said factories in the most affected areas are operating for only two days a week to reduce operating expenses, among other cost-cutting measures.
“The sharp drop in production has been heightened by the stark differences in weather over the two years. The El Nino rains in the 2015/16 year led to a bumper crop while the prolonged dry spell in the current 2016/17 has depressed output,” said Mr Tiampati.
The production dip, coupled by lower prices at the Mombasa Tea Auction, mean that KTDA is unlikely to match the Sh84 billion generated last year, translating to lower earnings for the 560,000 smallholder farmers.
Rainfall recorded in the smallholder tea-growing areas decreased to 761.5 mm in the nine months from 1360.2mm, with January registering the least amount at 23.5mm compared to 134.7mm in January 2016.
This has seen many factories produce way below average.
Prices at the Mombasa Tea Auction have also been lower at an average of $2.5 (Sh258) per kilogramme of tea in the nine months to March.
This compares poorly to the $2.74 (Sh283) average for a similar period last year.
Mr Tiampati, however, said this year’s production is largely in line with the average annual production, with an exception of years that see above-normal rainfall.
“In 2014/15, for example, farmers delivered 770 million kilogrammes to KTDA factories in the nine months to March,” he said.