Kenya Railways and the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) have entered into a partnership which will see KTDA managed factories transport their produce via the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) line from Nairobi to the Port of Mombasa for onward export.
A statement to newsrooms indicates that under the partnership, tea from KTDA-managed factories will be transported from the tea growing counties to the Nairobi Freight Terminal where it will be loaded onto Kenya Railways wagons and subsequently transported to the Port of Mombasa.
The maiden trip from the partnership saw KTDA transport 31 containers of packed tea which translates to 800 tonnes via the SGR.
Speaking while receiving the first batch of KTDA tea to be hauled by Kenya Railways, State Department for Crop Development and Agricultural Research, Principal Secretary, Hamadi Boga, noted that the move to transport tea via SGR is an innovative step that will lower tea transport costs and deliver better value to farmers.
“Plans to transport tea via Kenya Railways have been in the pipeline for a while now as we explored new technologies and infrastructure to enhance efficiencies in the tea supply chain. We are cognizant that the progression to Kenya Railways will guarantee faster, safer and more convenient transportation of tea,” Boga said.
Kenya Railways Managing Director, Phillip Mainga, assured the KTDA team that opting for the Standard Gauge Railway was the best choice because of the benefits associated with railway transport.
He outlined that Kenya Railways guarantees large volumes of cargo transported over shortened transit times due to high haulage capacity and the high speeds of the trains. He also assured KTDA of the safety of their cargo while in transit.
“We are glad to have this partnership with you. I assure you that Kenya Railways is up to the task. We have enough capacity to handle all the cargo you can bring our way. At the moment, we are running 9 to 11 freight trains every day between Mombasa and Nairobi and we are able to do even more if need be,” he said. “But of paramount importance, is the promise our service offers. We are always on time and the safety of your cargo is guaranteed,” he added.
Mr Mainga further added that the partnership will lead to decongestion on roads.
“Transporting tea through Kenya Railways means that the roads will be decongested because one train can transport an equivalent volume that would take many trucks to transport by road. Today we are transporting 31 containers of tea on one train. This would have taken 31 trucks if we were to do it by road. We are therefore glad to be in this partnership with KTDA because the Madaraka Express Freight Service is a faster, safer and more efficient option,” he said.
Commenting on the same, KTDA Holdings Limited Chairman, David Ichoho, said the organisation is piloting 20,000 packs per week as it continues to streamline the process for full migration from road to rail transport.
“Every year we move about 300 million kilograms of processed teas and we expect these large volumes will mean greater savings for farmers as we progressively migrate to the Kenya Railways. Initially, we expect to transport 20,000 packages every week as we fine-tune the system and processes before full migration,” said Ichoho.
Kenya Railways will soon commence transshipment of cargo from the Standard Gauge Railway on to the Metre Gauge Railway line at Longonot station.
This move will ensure that cargo is transported seamlessly via rail from the Port of Mombasa to Malaba and Kisumu. As a result, the firm will attract more customers, especially cargo destined for Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
KTDA is setting up a tea handling facility next to the Nairobi Inland Container Depot that will handle all teas for onward transportation by Kenya Railways; underscoring KTDA’s commitment to the new mode of transporting teas.
By Joseph Ng’ang’a