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The Tea Industry in Kenya

Tea Estate
  1. Background
  2. The Tea Directorate
  3. Other Key Bodies in the Tea Industry
  4. Top 20 Kenyan Tea Exporters


Situated astride the Equator and bordering Tanzania, Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia and the Indian Ocean, Kenya is a country with fascinating features ranging from the snow capped Mt. Kenya, the Great Rift Valley with some geothermal activities, the vast plains teeming with wildlife, to the sunny and sandy beaches along the coastline.

Kenya’s capital city, Nairobi, is situated at the heart of the country and serves as the business and communication hub for East and Central Africa, while the historic city of Mombasa accommodates the natural harbour, Kilindini which is the regional gateway. Apart from these attractions, Kenya is famous world over for the production of high quality tea.

The tea industry operates under the auspices of the Ministry of Agriculture for technical and policy guidance. The industry is well structured right from the apex regulatory body, the Tea Directorate, the Tea Research Foundation of Kenya, through to the producers, tea manufacturing factories, the trade and the blending and packing establishments.

The Tea Directorate

The Tea Directorate was established on 13th June 1950 under the Tea Act(Cap 343) to regulate Tea Growing and manufacture. Under the Tea (Amendment) Act 1999, the Directorate’s mandate includes: licensing of tea manufacturing factories; carrying out of research on tea through its technical arm, the Tea Research Foundation of Kenya; the registration of growers, buyers, brokers, packers, management agents and any other person dealing in tea; and promotion of Kenya tea in both the local and the international markets. The Directorate also disseminates information relating to tea and advises the Government of all policy matters regarding the tea industry.

To discharge its mandate, the Directorate works closely with the Government through the Ministry of Agriculture and all organizations in the tea sub-sector which include the Kenya Tea Development Agency Limited, the Kenya Tea Growers Association and the East African Tea Trade Association, among others.  All these organizations and interests are represented in the Directorate.  The Directorate has 16 members, of whom six represent the smallholder farmers, four the plantation tea growers and one the tea trade.  In the Directorate are two Government representatives – the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and the Director of Agriculture – and two members appointed by the Directorate.  The Managing Director is an ex-officio member of the Directorate. Under the Tea (Amendment) Act, the Directorate appoints its own Chairman from amongst the members of the Directorate representing tea producers.

Other Key Bodies in the Tea Industry

The Research Foundation of Kenya (TRFK)

Based in Kerich, the Foundation is the technical arm of the Tea Directorate. Its main functions are to carry out research on the control of pests and diseases, improvement of planting material, husbandry, yields and quality.  The Foundation advises producers on the best clonal selection to suit the various ecological zones. So far the TRFK has developed over 45 well-adapted clones.

Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) Ltd.

The KTDA Ltd. was incorporated as a private company on July 1st 2000 to take over the role and functions of the former Kenya Tea Development Authority. The Agency advises smallholder tea farmers on the best method of tea growing, collects green leaf, processes and markets the tea on their behalf. Spread in all tea growing districts, the smallholder sub-sector accounts for over 60 per cent of total production from 54 registered tea factories serving over 400,000 growers.

Kenya Tea Growers Association (KTGA)

The Association was established in 1931 by large-scale tea producers to promote the common interests of the plantation sub-sector members in the cultivation and manufacture of tea and o promote good industrial relations and sound wage policies for the workers. Membership to the Association is open to growers who maintain over 10 hectares of tea.

Most large estate owners manufacture tea in their own factories while smaller estates and other out growers deliver leaf to existing tea factories.  The plantation sub-sector maintains 39 tea factories and accounts for about 40 percent of total production.

East African Tea Trade Association (EATTA)

The Association brings together tea producers, brokers, buyers and packers in Africa.  Its objective is to promote the best interest of the tea trade in Africa, by ensuring orderly marketing of tea, fostering relations within the trade and to collect and circulate statistical information necessary for members in their conduct of business.  According to the Rules of the Association, the dealing in tea are only permitted between members.

Top 20 Kenyan Tea Exporters