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Kenya's tea industry in hot water

Wednesday, November 19, 2014 - 01:50

Kenya's tea production has seen a bumper year, but falling tea prices mean many farmers are wanting out. As Ciara Lee reprts they say they need government help if one of the country's key industries is to survive.

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Kenya's Nandi County - hundreds of thousands of farmers and tea pickers have earned a living here for generations. The east African country is one of the world's biggest tea exporters. But instead of producing bumper earnings, good weather and big harvests have led to a glut of its speciality black tea. Farmers now sell for 40 percent less than they did three years ago and are now threatening to grow alternative crops. Some are even planning to build on their plots. (SOUNDBITE) (Swahili) AUGUSTINE BUSHENEI, TEA FARMER, SAYING: "This Tea crop has become useless because the price has gone down, while fertilizer and pesticide prices have shot up. We may pull it all up and keep cattle. We have kids in schools, we rely on tea for our food and clothes." Kenya produces almost 50% more tea than it did a decade ago and last year it made $1.3 billion from the crop. It's one of the country's biggest earners, having overtaken tourism after a spate of attacks by extremist groups. But tea prices have been under pressure globally thanks to more competition. Kenyan farmers want the government top help by cushioning price swings and finding new export markets. Aly Khan Satchu is an economic analyst based in Nairobi. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ALY KHAN SATCHU, ECONOMIC ANALYST, SAYING: "The doom and gloom is justified i don't see a big bounce happening anytime soon and you know i think until we reduce supply in effect we are pricing our tea too low. We have to reduce our supply in order to get higher prices." 70 percent of Kenyan leaves go to just five nations. Political turmoil has hit purchases in Egypt, Sudan, Afghanistan and Pakistan. And in Britain consumption has reached a plateau. Coffee drinking there is on the verge of becoming the country's number one drink

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Kenya's tea industry in hot water

Wednesday, November 19, 2014 - 01:50