This article focuses on tea farming in Kenya. Kenya is a major producer of tea and the world’s leading exporter of black tea. More than 111,002 hectares of land in the country is under tea.
Tea is mainly grown in the highlands where there is adequate rainfall. Main growing areas in Kenya include; Kericho, Nakuru, Bomet, Vihiga, Nandi, Nyamira, Kisii, Kakamega, Bungoma, Elgeyo Marakwet, Trans Nzoia, Kiambu, Embu and Murang’a.
Ecological Requirements for Growing Tea
- Annual rainfall of 1200- 1400mm.
- Tropical volcanic red soils with a pH of 5.0 to 5.8. The soil should be well-drained and aerated.
- Exposure to sunlight for about 4 hours a day.
- The altitude of 1500m- 2700m above sea level.
Propagation and Planting
Land should be thoroughly prepared early enough before planting is done. Proper weeding also needs to be done as weeds may lead to poor yields due to competition that may exist for nutrients.
Tea may be propagated by clonal selection, vegetative propagation, tea seed production, tea breeds and tea seed nursery. The common method in Kenya is vegetative propagation.
A nursery may be established to raise young plants under controlled conditions. The nursery site should be well-sheltered and near a water source.
The soil in the nursery should be well-drained and have a pH of 5.5.
Vegetative propagation is the best method for faster establishment of tea. New plants can be vegetatively selected from good clones. Cuttings can be made from young shoots which are about 5-7 months old.
The cuttings should be placed in a container of water before planting. They can be placed for about 30 minutes.
Pests and Diseases
Common pests that attack tea are nematodes, tea mites, cutworms, crickets, mosquito bugs and aphids. Diseases include wood rot, armillaria root rot, brown/grey blight.
The pests and diseases can be controlled by practising proper growing conditions/ field sanitation, planting resistant varieties, use of insecticides, pesticides and neem products.
Tea takes about 3 years to be ready for harvesting. One ha can yield approximately 1000- 1500kgs tea in a year.
Market for Tea in Kenya
Most of the tea grown in Kenya is meant for export. It is also locally consumed as a beverage. You can sell locally in open-air markets or directly to consumers.
You can also get into contracts with tea processing companies, tea exporters or marketing companies such as Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA).