Zimbabwe: Tea Farmers Want Some More

LOW prices of tea on the local market have seen farmers in Honde Valley abandoning the crop for other cash crops.

Despite prospects of a good harvest this season, tea producers in Honde Valley are slowly giving up.

The locally available buyer for Honde Valley tea growers, Eastern Highlands Plantations, is reportedly buying a kilogramme of tea for $11,56, which farmers say is not enough to cover production costs.

On the global market, tea sells at US$2,76 per kg.

Honde Valley has been receiving good rainfall this season and the current crop is thriving, but many farmers have stopped harvesting, citing poor prices.

Tea farmers in Honde Valley can only sell to one processor, Eastern Highlands Plantations, since all other processors in the area folded almost a decade ago.

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Zimbabwe Farmers' Union Tea Commodity chairman, Mr Charles Sanhanga, who is also a member of the Honde Valley Tea Growers' Association, said their tea was fetching $11,56 per kg, which was not enough.

"We have a very good crop this year despite the late start to the rainfall season. But the tea is now overgrown because farmers are choosing not to take their crop to the factory due to the low prices we are getting. We are now concentrating on our banana and maize fields since the return is much higher," he said.

Tea is currently priced at US$2,76 on the global market, (approximately $289,80) and the prices being offered to local producers remains way below those benchmarks.

During peak season (November to April) farmers in the area produce an average of 200 000kg a month. However, production has significantly declined in the past two years mainly due to poor pricing and high cost of fertilisers and labour.

Mr Sanhanga said farmers had engaged the processor with the hope of getting part of their money in foreign currency since they were buying fertiliser and paying workers in United States dollars.

He said the only solution now would be for farmers to diversify while they work on acquiring their own processing plant for value addition.

"Although tea is the major source of income for us, only those that are growing other crops for alternative sources of income are safe. We have now shifted our attention to the banana and maize crops as we wait for a review of prices," he added.

Artmotion S.Africa

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