Tea growers bemoan lack of competitive prices

HONDE Valley tea growers have called for a review of prices of their produce on the market citing high production costs. Most farmers are also blaming the cash crisis for the low market prices.

Tea picking started this month with more than 1 000 farmers dotted across Zindi, Chikomba, Chavhanga, Samutete, Mapokana and Katambarare areas selling their produce to Eastern Highlands Tea Estate.

EHTE is buying green tea at 16 cents per kg. It provides inputs to farmers at an agreed price at the beginning of the season. It also provides transport to carry the green tea from tea plantations after picking. One of the tea pickers, Mr Tony Mupangura, expressed concern over the current market prices.

“I have been a tea picker for the past 15 years, but things have not been well in the past two years. EHTE used to buy tea for more than $1 per kg over the past years, but now they are buying it for 16 cents. The situation is becoming unbearable because farmers are incurring losses. Labourers in these tea plantations need to be paid, but the money is not enough to leave a farmer with a profit,” said Mr Mupangura.

One of the farmers, Ms Erica Kuwanga, also said: “Lack of enough transport to carry our green tea to Eastern Highlands Tea Estate is also contributing to our losses.

“Farmers have to wait for trucks or tractors from the estate, but due to the large numbers of farmers in this business, by the time the transport comes, our tea would have lost weight due to high temperatures.”

She appealed to more companies to come on board and create a more competitive green tea market.

“Being the only buyer in this area makes EHTE enjoy a monopoly and do whatever they want with us. They can dictate the price they want at any time. I think if more companies come on board there will be competition and we will also benefit. Tea farming is becoming less viable by each passing day, but we cannot dump these plantations. Tea is a lifetime plant that generations can inherit and survive on,” said Ms Kuwanga.

Efforts to get a comment from EHTE proved fruitless at the time of going to print.

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