Tea output, which has been on the downward spiral in recent years, jumped by a paltry nine percent last year to 43 127 metric tonnes from previous year’s 39 447 metric tonnes, figures show.
But Tea Association of Malawi (Taml) chief executive officer Clement Thindwa said Friday it would be too early and unrealistic to give a projection for 2017.
He said: “All I can say is that the rains have started on a good note, but the only let up is intermittent power supply which necessitates use of diesel-powered generators which in turn raises cost of production and threatens our competitiveness on the international market which the industry heavily relies on.
“Use of diesel and effectively raising cost of production erodes our competitiveness.”
The local tea industry is faced with a number of structural challenges which are holding back the industry’s growth potential. These include low prices, rising production costs, heavily seasonal shrinking production, challenging business environment resulting in high cost of doing business, lower yielding and ageing tea bushes that require replanting and up-grading of factory machinery which requires urgent and huge capital investment.
Thindwa said the industry is experiencing cases of estates “actually and literally throwing away green leaf due to incapacity to process teas resulting from low power supply generation”.
Figures from Taml show that on average, 98 percent of the country’s tea is consumed abroad with the remaining used locally and industry contributes about seven percent to GDP, figures show. n