The East Africa Tea Trade Association (EATTA) Chairperson, Mr. Arthur Sewe has said that the tea sector needs a comprehensive policy framework that clearly delineates the role of government and that of the private sector.
Mr. Sewe was speaking during the Reclaim Sustainability Tea Project, Malawi Regional Multi Stakeholder platform which was convened by Tea Trade Association (EATTA) at the Sunbird Mount Soche Hotel.
He highlighted Kenya’s experience noting that the government initiated a national tea policy in 2013; and arising from delays in approving the draft, EATTA contracted a consultant to undertake a review of the draft with a view to identifying any gaps and providing remedial measures.
“The tea industry plays a significant role in shaping and sustaining the growing economies of the countries in East and Central Africa. It will bring together an integrated policy range of directives and procedures. That will encourage a coherent approach to development and investment in the tea sector,” said Mr. Sewe
On matters of climate change, he noted that it is a factor that has affected the tea industry in Africa without exception.
This, Sewe stated, can be seen by the reduced yield per fixed acreage as a result of poor precipitation and erratic distribution of rain adding that the solution lies in the adoption of green and renewable energy sources, like small hydro power stations, wind and solar energy to bring down energy costs.
The Chairperson said the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA) has been billed as the creation of the biggest free trade area since the foundation of the World Trade Organization.
“With the AFCTA there is a trade bloc of 1.2 billion people with a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of more than 2 trillion USD. The agreement commits countries to remove tariffs on 90 percent of goods and services traded within the block; and also provides a big potential market for tea and its related products,” added Mr.Sewe.
Speaking during the opening of the workshop, Malawi Minister for Trade and Industry Mark Katsonga Phiri said his President Dr Lazarus McArthur Chakwera believes that the sustainability of any initiative, is entrenched in meeting the needs of everyone concerned.
“I am therefore, pleased that the Reclaim Sustainability Programme which is a catalyst to these multi-stakeholder dialogues and platforms, is strengthening these platforms at both national and regional level in Africa,” he said adding that “In Malawi, we have now heeded the call to revitalise the Government Tea Industry forum which will have a structured way of engagement and ensure that agreed actions are followed up and addressed.
Mr Phiri also called on the EATTA to intervene on the Mombasa port tea auction centre and make it accessible to all countries where they discussed and came up with solutions to the challenges affecting the tea sector in the continent.
With the theme, ‘Fostering Genuine and Inclusive Sustainability in the Tea Value Chain’ the conference brought together over 90 key stakeholders from seven countries including Malawi, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe.
The regional meeting was aimed at achieving three objectives namely, to share key Tea industry updates in relation to trade, Standards and Accreditation, to strengthen coordination amongst tea industry players in Africa, to amplify voices of smallholder producers, workers and rural women and to develop key joint actions to be championed at regional level.
By Catherine Muindi