Malawians are drinking less tea, a development the Tea Association of Malawi (Taml) is concerned about.
In the past few years, figures indicate that Malawians used to consume two percent of the tea produced in the country with the rest (98 percent) being exported.
But now only one percent of the tea is consumed locally with the rest being exported, according to Taml.
“This is a worrisome trend and we are very concerned that the bulk of our tea is being exported. Malawians are not drinking as much tea as they used to in the past. This is a big concern to us,” said Taml chief executive officer Clement Thindwa.
Taml has since organised the first-ever National Tea Conference to instill in Malawians the culture of drinking the beverage.
Thindwa said the conference will, among others, help to spur domestic tea consumption.
“We also want to sensitise Malawians on the health benefits of drinking tea as compared to other fizzy drinks on the market,” he said.
Thindwa observed that tea contains a large number of beneficial bioactive chemicals, including flavinoids, amino acids, vitamins, caffeine and several polysaccharides; hence, a variety of health effects have been proposed and investigated.
“It has been suggested that green and black tea may protect against cancer, though the catechins found in green tea are thought to be more effective in preventing certain obesity-related cancers such as liver and colorectal while both green and black tea may protect against cardiovascular disease,” he said.
Tea, according to scientists, is known as the nature’s wonder drug and of late, its healthy benefits have received wide attention. It is ability to promote good health has long been considered in many countries, especially Japan, China, India and England.
Malawi’s tea is exported to countries such as the United Kingdom (UK), South Africa, Kenya, United States, China, Egypt and Botswana.
For example, in 2012, Malawi’s tea output peaked at 42.4 million kilogrammes and out of this, 41.8 million kilogrammes were exported, leaving 656 kilogrammes for local consumption.
In 2012 [January to December], export revenue from tea, one of the country’s foreign exchange earners, jumped to K16 billion (about $45.7m), a 50 percent increase from the previous year’s K10.7 billion (about $30.5m), according to figures from Taml.
The revenue realised is out of 41.8 million kilogrammes of the commodity exported, down from the previous year’s 44.8 million kilogrammes, a drop of seven percent.
Output last year also dropped 10 percent to 42.4 million kilogrammes from the previous year’s 47 million kilogrammes, according to the figures, largely to unfavourable weather conditions particularly in the tea growing districts of Thyolo and Mulanje.