Rumbidzayi Zinyuke Manicaland Bureau
Tea growers in Honde Valley are seeking partners to fund the purchase of a mini-factory that will help them add value to their crop as they seek to penetrate foreign markets and increase their incomes.
The Honde Valley Tea Growers Association is a consortium of 900 active small-scale farmers that are selling their tea to Eastern Highlands Plantations for processing.
Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU) district coordinator and a member of the association Mr Misheck Dembaremba said their tea was fetching low prices, but if they were to process it themselves, they would be able to get more.
“Our tea is fetching only $0,40 per kg, but the ideal price that we would want to cover our production costs is $1,70 per kg. Unlike in the past when we could sell our tea to either Katiyo or Eastern Highlands Plantations, we are now only left with EHP since Katiyo closed almost four years ago.
“As farmers, we hope to get a partner who will assist us to acquire a mini-factory or to get a loan, which we can pay back over time,” he said.
He said the processing machine would allow them to close the price gap and also enable them to directly access the local and foreign markets where the value for their tea is higher.
“We have done our research and it would cost us about US$100 000 to get this machine in China, while in India it would cost US$120 000. The machine processes about 5 000kg per day. If we have our own machine, we will be part of the value addition chain and we can supply the local market first and then move towards the foreign markets,” said Mr Dembaremba.
He said their farmers have already been receiving training on how small-scale tea farmers in other countries are producing tea viably and would like to implement these ideas in their region.
So far, 13 farmers have had an opportunity to visit Kenya where there is a thriving small-scale tea production sector.
“Small-scale farmers in Kenya are doing very well and we have had an opportunity to go there and see how they are doing it. SNV Zimbabwe (Netherlands Development Organisation) took seven farmers to Kenya in 2016 and another group of six in 2016. This year, Rainforest Alliance-UTZ is facilitating for 12 more farmers to travel to Kenya,” he said
Mr Dembaremba said although farmers were optimistic of a good season, they needed fertilisers to increase yields from the current 1,8 million kg per year.
ZFU regional manager Mr Daniel Mungazi said smallholder farmers still need support to improve their yields which are lower than the potential of the crop.
“The tea crop is one of the foreign currency earners for the country and hence the need for equal attention. Results indicate that small holder farmers produce high quality crop when compared to commercial production due to level of management and the use of mechanical harvesters versus use of hands,” he said.