President Kagame emphasizes importance of tea industry at 2nd Tea Convention & Exhibition

The 2nd Tea Convention & Exhibition takes place again this year, this time hosted by the East Africa Tea Trade Association (EATTA), in collaboration with the National Agricultural Export Development Board (NAEB). This year’s theme is “African Tea ; Refreshing the World and Driving the African Economy.” His Excellency, President Kagame came to witness the opening of the exhibition of the 2nd Tea Convention.

The purpose of the Tea Convention is to bring together members of the East African Tea Trade Association, including tea producers, brokers, packers, and warehousemen of East and Central Africa, tea traders and importers of importing countries, scholars, and investors.

The 1st Tea Convention was held in Mombasa, Kenya, in 2011, where two factories from Rwanda, Gisovu and Kitabi, received 1st and 3rd prizes for Best Quality Tea during the tasting competitions.

Over 600 participants attended from around the world ; researchers, financial institutions, investors, logistic and warehousing businesses, and tea stakeholders attended the event. 74 factories participated and 323 samples were registered during the convention. The panel comprised of professional tea tasters of various international companies, testing on multiple qualities of tea, including flavor, leaf appearance, briskness, and more.

This was a unique opportunity for Rwanda to showcase achievements within the tea sector, as well as promote the tea expansion and investment plans for establishing 18,000 hectares of new fields and 5 tea processing factories.

According to the Chairman of the East Africa Tea Trade Association, the organization maintains a membership of over 180 tea companies ; the EATTA expressed their appreciation for the efforts by the Government of Rwanda in 2007 for initiating tea expansion programs.

His Excellency, Paul Kagame awarded the winners of the 2nd Africa Tea Convention within various categories :

Best White Tea : Kangaita Tea Factory

Best Orthodox Tea : Kangaita Tea Factory

Best Green Tea : Sorwathe Tea Factory

Best Purple Tea : Chomogondy Tea Factory

Black CTC Teas

Best D 1 Tea Grade : Kitabi Tea Factory

Best PD Grade : Karongi Tea Factory

Best BP 1 Tea Grade : Kitabi Tea Factory

Best PF 1 Tea Grade : Gisovu Tea Factory

“There is no doubt that the tea industry is important to the world economy. The large number of delegates to this convention attests to the importance of tea as a tradeable commodity and high-value beverage,” said President Paul Kagame.

According to His Excellency, global demand and consumption has increased by 21% in the last 5 years, while production has gone up 15%. Clearly, a market exists, but Rwanda needs to produce more to meet this demand, not just in terms of volume, but in quality.

“While the future looks promising, there must be challenges to be addressed ; tea as a beverage, faces competition in the face of other beverages, as well as high and rising costs of production, and changes in consumer taste and preferences,” stated His Excellency during his keynote address.

Despite these challenges, the tea sector was advised to embark on increasing value addition and diversification by tapping into the high-value tea market, and adoption of new technologies to keep it competitive on the global beverage market. Achieving this requires continued research and development and innovations to have products aligned to new consumer demands. East Africa has a unique position, being the 3rd largest producer after India and China.

In Rwanda, tea is the number 2 export commodity ; revenues have almost tripled in the past decade from 22.6 million USD in 2003 to 65.7 million USD in 2012. While China and India consume most of their production, Rwanda consumes less than 2% of the tea produced here. Many tea companies have invested in value addition, which increases their profit per kg significantly.

His Excellency applauded Sorwathe for taking the lead in value addition and challenging other companies to follow their example in Rwanda.

President Kagame has urged tea stakeholders to invest in value addition, training and capacity development of Rwandan farmers, and innovative tea technology.

“The success of the tea industry hinges a lot on the farm ; the industry must be prepared to invest in farmers, ensuring that they are an integral part of the industry, and get the most of our land,” said President Kagame. “We must remain alive to provide employment, giving jobs to millions of our own, and to poverty reduction.”