Tea farmers have raised concerns over low prices for their produce, saying the trend is making them contemplate switching to other crops.
Farmers in Nyabihu — which is one of the biggest tea producing districts — were guaranteed last year that the Nyabihu tea processing factory would increase the price per kilo of tea leaf from Rwf265 to Rwf300 if they scoop higher prices at the Mombasa Tea Auction.
But after fetching higher prices at the auction, Nyabihu tea processing factory instead cut prices of the tea it collects from farmers.
The farm gate price of a kilogramme of tea has dropped to Rwf240 from Rwf265, yet since February this year, consecutively the same tea performed well in the auction scooping good prices.
Currently, Rwanda’s coffee fetches Rwf5122 a kilogramme at the Mombasa tea auction, followed by Kenya’s.
And last month, Rwanda sold 1.9 kilogrammes of tea at the Mombasa tea auction at an average of $3 per kilo, according to the National Agricultural Exportation Board.
Jean Damascene Karemera, a tea farmer in Nyabihu, said they needed an urgent government intervention to help them benefit from the good prices of tea at the auction.
“The input cost increases every season in order to continue producing quality tea, but the price of at which we sell off our produce to the factory has not increased instead reduced,” said Mr Karemera.
“It takes around Rwf200 to produce one kilogramme of quality tea, yet on reaching the market factories purchase a kilogramme at Rwf240.
Earning Rwf40 per kilogramme as profit is very little compared with the efforts one puts in,” Mr Karemera added.
“If we could sell a kilogramme of tea at Rwf350 or Rwf300 as we had been promised, we would be motivated to continue growing tea,” he added.
The impressive performance of Nyabihu gave farmers hope to earn a good bonus if the trend continues, but surprisingly this performance does not benefit them at all.
However, the problem of low prices doesn’t only affect farmers in Nyabihu but also those in Nyaruguru, suff