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Manicaland small-scale farmers sip on the benefits of tea exports

By Kingstone Gwatidzo (Opinion)

TEA PRODUCTION in Zimbabwe has grown over the years, and becoming an important business, contributing to the country’s economy and employing thousands of people.

From as early as the 1960s, Zimbabwe has been cultivating tea, and because of its fertile agricultural land and pleasant climate that is suitable for tea production, some of the best tea blends in the world has come from the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe.

The first tea plantations in Zimbabwe were established in the Eastern Highlands, where the climate and soil conditions were ideal for tea cultivation.

Since then, tea production has expanded to other regions, including Honde Valley, Chipinge, Chimanimani, and Nyanga.

Small-scale holder farmers in Honde Valley have taken up the initiative to process tea for both the local and export markets.

With over 1200 farmers growing tea in the mountains of Honde Valley, the setting up of the tea processing plant comes at an opportune time when most farmers were now opting for cash crops as opposed to tea plantations.

Farmers have set up a Honde Valley Tea Growers Association and secured a tea processing plant that is situated in Ward 3, Zindi in Honde Valley.

With an average of at least two hectares per farmer, the association has almost 600 hectares of land for tea plantations.

The group comprises of at least 57 women and almost 70 youths, and with a growing capacity of six million kgs in a year, the processing plant is set to uplift the livelihoods of the grower groups.

The group is focusing mainly on the production of orthodox tea, which is black tea and herbal tea, mainly because of its demand globally and its health benefits.

Tea, the second most consumed beverage in the world, is a staple in many cultures for centuries, and among the various types of tea, black and herbal tea stand out for their unique growing processes and numerous benefits to health-conscious people.

The global tea market is vast and growing, with an estimated value of US$40 billion in 2023.

The demand for tea is driven by its increasing popularity in emerging markets, particularly in Asia and Africa.

Pakistan ranks highest in the list of importing countries, importing almost nine percent of total imported tea in 2023.

The total amount of tea imported by Pakistan for 2023 stands at US$649 million.

The United States in the same year imported tea worth US$559,7 million which is almost 7.7 percent of the total tea imports in the said year.

The United Arab Emirates imported tea worth US$410.2 million and a total of 5.7 percent of the total tea imports of 2023.

According to the TradeMap, in 2022 Zimbabwe exported close to 13000 tonnes of tea, amounting to US$18.2 million in export proceeds.

This was an increase by 13.04 percent from the previous year, when the country exported US$16.1 million worth of tea.

South Africa is the biggest market destination of tea from Zimbabwe, with imports of US$17 million in 2022.

Mozambique and Zambia are the second and third destinations in the SADC region. France, Russia, Belgium, and Germany have provided markets for the premium tea blend from Zimbabwe.

Through the ZimTrade export development program, the Tea Growers Association is set to undergo trainings on Marketing and Branding for International Competitiveness MasterClass.

The training is designed to take the group through market analysis, international standards, and compliance issue so that they are cognisant of the market requirements in the export markets.

ZimTrade has also lined up technical interventions with experts both local and foreign are lined up, to assist the group to maximise their operations and gain a footprint in the export market.

Once production starts, ZimTrade will link the cluster with leading buyers in targeted market, who are ready to source from Honde Valley.

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