The Kenya Tea development Agency (KTDA) is seeking Sh800 million from the government to expand its production line for high value specialty tea following a surge in demand in the international market.
Agency chairman David Ichoho says it has so far received six-month upfront orders from the international buyers.
Mr Ichoho said they want to put up specialty tea production lines in 10 more factories to cater for the expanded order book.
Mr Ichoho made the request to President William Ruto on Wednesday during the flagging off of tea meant for West Africa under the African Free Trade Continental Area (AfCFTA) pact.
“We are seeking an immediate grant of Sh800 million from the government to facilitate 10 orthodox processing factories to meet the six month orders from our international buyer,” said Mr Ichoho.
KTDA has 12 factories that are currently making orthodox tea and it wants to roll out the processing of this type of beverage to all its factories.
The agency has been producing about five million kilogrammes from the factories where the special processing lines for this tea have been installed.
Kenya is the only country in the world that produces purple tea, but the country is yet to tap its full potential even with a ready market.
Orthodox beverages that include white and purple teas are high value products that fetch premium prices in the market.
They are expensive because of the limited volumes produced in the country against high demand globally.
For instance, a kilogramme of white tea will fetch as much as Sh7,000 in the market while purple tea will earn a factory Sh1,200 for half kilogramme packet. This is against Sh270 that a kilogramme of black tea is selling at in the auction currently.
Specialty and orthodox teas are known for their antioxidant qualities, which comes with some health benefits that include fighting cancer, lowering of weight, hair loss, and reduce the risk of a heart attack.
Kenya is predominantly a producer of black tea and it is the largest exporter of the commodity to the world market.
The country has been cutting overreliance on black tea by diversifying into specialty tea to increase farmers’ income as the price of the black tea becomes volatile in the market.