The National Agricultural Exports Development Board’s (NAEB’s) new strategy to increase the country’s revenue from tea exports includes establishing five tea factories (to be operational by 2014), and expanding the area under cultivation by 16,588ha by 2017. Alex Kanyankole, the director general of NAEB, explains that Rwanda’s tea sector currently has 11 factories with an annual production of over 23,000t of dry tea. There is, however, limited value-addition as 97.3% of the crop is exported in its raw form – 60% of it is sold in auctions, 37.3% is sold directly and 2.7% is sold locally.
Another of the NAEB’s goals is to increase tea production to at least 31,460t by 2014 and 41,873t by 2017 from its 2010 level of 23,249t. It is, however, facing several production and processing challenges. At production level, limited access to fertilizers, limited land for expansion, and lack of deep research in the sector are hampering growth.
And at a processing level, there’s limited capacity and most personnel lack proper industrial skills. These constraints are coupled with limited basic infrastructure in terms of roads and electricity. The NAEB therefore plans to focus on the rehabilitation of main and feeder roads for quicker delivery from fields to factories and the modernisation of tea processing machinery.
At an export level the NAEB plans to support tea factories in acquiring certification through training so that they can sell their products on the international market. It will also run several training sessions during 2012 to address local tea exporters’ limited training at all levels along the value chain. – Rwanda Focus