President Samia Suluhu Hassan and Michael Bloomberg Enjoy Tanzanian Tea at COP28 Summit

Tanzania’s Ambitious Plan to Double Tea Production: Aiming to Become Africa’s Leading Producer

By Anthony Muchoki

In a unique and delightful tête-à-tête, Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan teamed up with renowned American businessman and politician Michael Bloomberg for a cup of Tanzanian tea on the sidelines of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai.

Tanzanian tea is famous worldwide for its unique flavor and is considered a symbol of Tanzanian culture and friendship.  According to the Tanzania State House, Bloomberg has been a major supporter of the tea crop in Tanzania for women in 8 districts including Lushoto, Rungwe, and Korogwe. 

At the COP28 meeting, Tanzanian tea was the official tea, and many people have been enjoying it. In addition to promoting Tanzanian tea internationally, Bloomberg has also helped to provide financial assistance, establishment of a tea auction, and a laboratory for testing its quality.

Under the leadership of President Samia, the agricultural budget in Tanzania has seen significant increases, and her role in creating a conducive environment for both smallholder farmers and investors in the country’s vital agricultural sector, including the tea industry, cannot be overstated.

Tanzania’s tea sector is currently undergoing a profound transformation, driven by a dynamic blend of government-driven initiatives, private sector investments, and evolving consumer preferences. Agriculture Minister, Hussein M. Bashe, has set a bold target of doubling tea sector productivity.

His leadership has been instrumental in achieving key milestones, such as the recent launch of the Dar es Salaam Tea Auction in November 2023, which was actualised by The Tea Board of Tanzania (TBT), led by Director General, Ms. Mary Kapeja, her team and tea stakeholders.

This historic event marked a departure from the traditional practice of tea auctions in Mombasa, Kenya. The direct auction system aims to empower Tanzania tea producers by providing greater control over pricing and fostering direct relationships with international buyers.

Minister Bashe acknowledges that this journey is not without its challenges, but he expresses his gratitude to President Samia Suluhu Hassan for her unwavering trust and leadership. He stated, “I am deeply thankful to President Samia Suluhu Hassan for entrusting us with the responsibility to embark on this transformative journey, a path that many doubted. Her steadfast faith and guidance have propelled us to this stage of liberation for the tea crop.”

Bashe has also made it clear The Tea Board of Tanzania (TBT) and the Tanzania Smallholder Tea Development Agency (TSHTIDA) to introduce urgent  strategies for the growth and strengthening of the tea sector.

The minister’s directive was clear and multifaceted, focusing not just on the production side of the tea industry, but also on the crucial aspect of market exploration and development. He urged the TTB and TSHTIDA to devise comprehensive plans that encompass the entire spectrum of the tea production process, from the cultivation stages to the final market distribution.

The current tea production, with an average yield of 1,000 kilograms per hectare over an area of 22,721 hectares, is 22,721,000 kilograms. If the yield per hectare is doubled to 2,000 kilograms, as targeted by Minister Bashe, the production would increase to 45,442,000 kilograms (about 45,442 tonnes). With plans also to increase area under tea farming, the projections are much higher.

In 2020, Tanzania’s tea exports reached a remarkable high of nearly 74 billion Tanzanian shillings (TZS), equivalent to approximately 32 million US dollars. Predominantly, these exports comprise black tea (both fermented and partly fermented), which represents over 95% of the total tea shipments. This variety of tea enjoys popularity in several countries, including the United Kingdom, South Africa, Russia, and Pakistan.

Transitioning Beyond Traditional Bulk Exports:

Historically, Tanzania’s tea industry focused primarily on bulk tea exports. However, a significant shift is underway as the country moves towards offering value-added tea products. This strategic change includes an array of options like packaged teas, uniquely flavored teas, and organic teas. By embracing this diversification, Tanzania is enhancing its position and competitiveness in the increasingly challenging global tea market.

Tanzania’s tea industry presents a remarkable story of quality, growth, and potential, especially in the context of both regional and global tea markets:

1. Regional Significance in Africa:

As the second-largest tea exporter in Africa, trailing only behind Kenya, Tanzania plays a crucial role in the regional tea trade. This position not only underscores its significance in the African tea market but also highlights the industry as a vital source of income for many Tanzanian farmers.

2. Global Standing:

On a global scale, according to the Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC), Tanzania ranks 10th in tea exports. This ranking places it amongst the world’s top tea-exporting nations, competing with giants like China, India, and Kenya, despite not being the largest exporter in terms of volume.

3. High Export Value:

Impressively, Tanzania ranks even higher in terms of export value, standing 6th globally with a total export value of $197 million in 2021. This indicates that Tanzanian tea, known for its quality and unique varieties, fetches a premium price in the international market.

4. Dominance in Black Tea Exports:

In the specific category of black tea exports, Tanzania holds the 4th position globally, accounting for 5.6% of the global black tea export market. The popularity of Tanzanian black teas, like the flavorful Golden Tips of Mufindi and the robust Malingalinga, contribute significantly to this ranking.

5. Future Prospects:

With the government’s focus on improving tea quality, increasing production, and promoting direct exports, Tanzania is well-positioned for future growth in the tea export rankings. The shift towards value-added products, such as flavored and organic teas, could further expand market reach and boost export earnings.

According to the The Tea Board of Tanzania (TBT), the Director General, Ms. Mary Kapeja, has proudly declared Tanzanian tea as unparalleled and unique in the global market. She emphasized that its distinctiveness stems from its natural color, a characteristic that sets it apart from any other tea in the world.

The Tea Board of Tanzania (TBT) lays a crucial role in the nation’s tea industry, acting as the sole regulator and a unifying force. It brings together various stakeholders, including the government, farmers, investors, researchers, and others, to ensure cohesive and harmonious operations within the industry. By coordinating these diverse groups, the TBT ensures that each player’s contributions and needs are balanced, promoting a thriving and sustainable tea industry in Tanzania.