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“All time is tea time”: The Prospects and Challenges of the Global Tea Industry


by Prof. Peter O. Ndege, Professor of History, Moi University, Eldoret, Kenya


The establishment of the International Tea Day (ITD) on 21st May every year provides a welcome occasion to reflect on the origins, development, achievements and challenges of the tea industry. This is largely because the ITD’s primary aims are to raise awareness of the long history and the deep cultural and economic significance of tea around the world, to promote and foster collective actions to implement activities in favour of the sustainable production and consumption of tea and to raise awareness of its importance in fighting hunger and poverty. In line with these laudable aims, this paper briefly traces the origins and development of tea and the analyses its present production, export, import and price conditions and challenges. The paper finally makes some suggestions for ameliorating the situation. The paper argues that tea has travelled a long and tortuous journey that is characterized by achievements as well as challenges and that the latter should be turned into opportunities for the greater development of the industry.

Origins and development: a very brief background

Tea’s domestication and cultivation was initially occasioned by human innovative ingenuity to satisfy beverage and food needs. The southern Chinese are believed to have discovered the crop and its uses first as a beverage and then as medicine about 2,700 BC (Soni, et al. 2015)   At first they plucked the leaves from the tall tea trees that grew tall in the natural forests before they were able to develop and grow shorter varieties near settlements. The crop increasingly became so valuable that the rulers of the early Chinese dynasties appropriated it for themselves and the aristocracy around them. They controlled its production, trade and use to consolidate ritual, political and economic power in their hands. They therefore kept its source a secret until the advent of mercantilism when European traders and administrators of the British and Dutch East India companies smuggled it to some of their colonies in Asia and the Mediterranean lands, including Turkey.

Tea is also native to other areas in Asia, including Cambodia, Vietnam and North India. Whereas the first two countries are believed to have used the crop for centuries, it is unknown whether the inhabitants of India ever used the crop until its large-scale cultivation was initiated there by the British colonial authorities in the second half of the nineteenth century. For many centuries the Chinese and Vietnamese bred and hybridized seeds and seedlings through careful selection and gardening. These processes would later be developed and perfected by tea researchers wherever the crop was introduced to suit local conditions. Whereas tea breeding and even cloning facilitated faster maturation of cultivated tea it also made the crop increasingly dependent on human care in the artificially created and delicate garden environments. The rapid population growth, the urbanization process, European colonialism, the dramatic increase in tea consumption and globalization, which actually commenced with the advent of mercantilism in AD 1500, led to the dispersal of tea production in other parts of Asia, particularly Russia, parts of Europe, Latin America and Africa.

During the period of mercantilism, which commenced with the discovery and colonization of North and South America the British, the Portuguese, the Spaniards generally exercised control over trade in their colonies.in Asia and South America. The British, in particular, imposed high tax on tea which entered their colony in North America in order to get the revenue to pay their administrators and soldiers.  This led to protests among their European colonists in North America and to the dumping into the ocean of crates of imported tea in Boston in December 1773. This event, which is more popularly referred to as the Boston Tea Party initiated other protests that culminated in the American War of Independence. Tea, which the British were using for purposes of colonial state formation in North America, became a tool of nationalist protest. But it later caused other wars elsewhere, particularly in China

Towards the end European mercantilism in the eighteenth century, Britain and the US, were anxious to have a share of and possibly control of the Chinese trade, including in tea.  Although the trade with China commenced in the 1780s, the western powers soon found that they did not have sufficient goods to satisfy Chinese demand. This led them to introduce smuggled opium into the trade. The Chinese authorities much rejected this, a development that led to the opium wars against the British in 1839-1842 and also in 1857 to 1858. To calm the situation the British forced the Chinese government to sign the treaties of Nanjing and of Wangxia with the US, which were followed by a similar treaty with the US, France and Russia at the same place.

It is important to note that in later years, during the Twentieth and Twenty-first centuries the commercial wars over tea trade would take more subtle forms, particularly over land for growing tea in the European colonies, tea prices, quality and quantity. The players would be the developed countries, multinational companies (MNCs) and peasant farmers in developing countries. The context is the integration of developing countries into the international capitalist world economy as the largest producers of tea and other raw materials. As a result of this the tea producing countries operate in situations of poverty and importation of capital, market distortions and imperfection, overdependence on exports as a source of foreign exchange, and unequal exchange because prices of raw materials, including tea, are comparatively lower than those of imported machinery and fertilizers. These realities have perpetuated unequal power relations between the tea producing countries of the global South and the tea consuming countries of the global North. The story of tea in colonial Kenya is detailed here to illustrate Africa’s, Asia’s and Latin America’s experiences with tea.

Tea in colonial Kenya

Tea was first grown at Limuru in Central Province of Kenya in 1903( Swainson, 1980).  Initially its production was in such small quantities that European and Indian consumers relied on imports from India and Sri Lanka. During subsequent years the internal demand for tea increased with the influx of bigger numbers of immigrant communities, greater urbanization and exposure of Kenya’s rural population to new tastes. Its prospects as a profitable crop from the early 1920s influenced many European settlers and international companies to undertake its production. Further, since the colonial state in Kenya considered European settler and estate agriculture as the backbone of the economy its land and labour policies that greatly favoured expatriate producers. The most fertile land in the Mount Kenya region and the highland region of the Rift Valley were alienated for the production of tea and other commodities by them. In addition, throughout the colonial period African was the source of cheap labour. African labourers were paid very low wages and lived in bad conditions in the tea estates. They were allowed to cultivate very restricted quantities of tea from the 1950s.

The international firms that engaged in large scale tea production included Twinning Tea Company, A. Bauman and Company, Jardine and Mathieson, Liptons, Buret and Jamji Estates and Nandi Tea Estates, Brooke Bond (East Africa) and James Finlay Company. Before the outbreak of the WW in 1914 Brook Bond was engaged in tea blending in India and Sri Lanka. In 1914, Tom Rutter, in charge of Brooke Bond in Calcutta, India, travelled to Kenya on a trophy hunting safari in Kenya. He realized that the country was ideal for tea growing. In 1916 the company appointed an agent in Nairobi to sell its brand in Kenya before opening its office in Mombasa in 1922 to manage tea imports into the country. In 1924 it bought 1000 acres in Limuru to grow tea. It soon moved to Kericho where it established its first major Tea Factory at Kerenga in 1927. In 1946 it also bought Buret and Jamji Tea Companies. In 1958 it owned about 7,410 acres of tea in Kenya and was the largest tea producer in the country and the world. Initially Finlay manufactured textiles in Britain and engaged in trade. This was before it acquired large tea estates in Asia and became by the 1920s the largest tea growers in the world. In 1925 it bought 20,000 acres of land in Kericho and registered the African Highlands Produce Company to run a tea estate. The company planted tea on over 5000 acres for a start. Today Finlay is also involved in the lucrative large-scale flower farming around Naivasha.

Brooke Bond’s and Finlay’s positions as the dominant British-based multinationals with the largest tea interests in Asia and Latin America placed them in a rather contradictory position regarding the development of tea production in Kenya. Locally within the country they either bought or undercut the smaller companies and forced them out of business. They also competed between themselves. As a consequence, during the depression in 1929-39 Brooke Bond established virtual monopoly over the tea industry in Kenya. It controlled all key stages of production, marketing and distribution of tea in the country. Henceforth whenever its more substantial tea interests in Asia and Latin America were affected either by falling prices or higher costs of production, it intervened to protect these interests at the expense of the tea industry in Kenya. Being the most influential member of the International Tea Corporation, the company made critical decisions regarding the quantities of tea to be produced in the country. It also fixed tea prices in its favour.

The two companies further benefitted from two five-year tea restriction schemes, the first in 1934 and another one in 1938.  They influenced schemes through their membership of the International Tea Agreement. The restrictions were meant to prevent large supplies of tea into the world market as this would imperil British tea growing interests. The 1934 Tea Restriction Ordinance limited the expansion of the area under tea in Kenya to 1,003 acres. The resultant “shortages”, it was believed, would stabilize the price of tea grown in the larger tea growing areas in Asia where production costs were much higher than in Kenya.

Following closely on the heels of the Restriction Schemes, the International Tea Agreement established a Tea Distribution Agreement in 1938. Known as “The Pool”, this Agreement required that the main tea growers and exporters handle a specified quota of the local market. The Pool ensured that Brooke Bond and Finlay maintained full control of the local market. After the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 the British Government arranged for bulk purchases of tea and other products that were essential to her efforts in the war.  In 1940 this arrangement allowed Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika to export 5 percent of all tea to Britain. Once more, this arrangement benefitted Brooke Bond and Finlay much more than all the other tea firms in the region. Bulk purchases of tea were arranged again in 1942 and operated until 1954.

As a consequence of these production and market control measures, tea exports in Kenya remained almost static between 1937 and 1952 when quantities of tea exports were hardly above 4200 metric tons. The worst years were 1948 and 1949 when tea exports from Kenya declined to about 2,697 metric tons. The export figures increased from 4,917 metric tons in 1954 to 13, 452 metric tons in 1962. This was because Brooke Bond and Finlay developed higher yielding tea varieties and processing techniques, the former at its Tea Research Institute near Kericho town.

This increase can also be attributed to the entry of Africans into tea growing, mostly as small-holders in the 1950s in Kiambu, Karatina and Nyeri then Kericho, and Kisii. As in the case of coffee and pyrethrum, African participation in tea growing was pushed by nationalist pressure, which led to the Swynnerton Plan of 1954. This Plan introduced land consolidation, first in Central Province before its extension to other areas in Kenya. Meanwhile, the Kenya Tea Board was Established in the late 1950s to issue licenses to prospective growers, inspect lands to determine their suitability for tea growing and advise producers on matters pertaining to cultivation, sowing, and picking, collection, drying and storing tea leaves. It imposed tax on all tea manufactured in the country to finance these responsibilities and to provide of essential facilities like transport and experimental stations.

The mode of tea production in colonial Kenya illustrates the fact that the industry benefitted from the premium the British gave to commodity production in the country. With the assistance of the British government and the colonial state British multinationals dominated tea production, its processing and marketing thereby relegating Africans to cheap labour and consumers of tea. This situation replicated itself in other British colonies such as India and Sri Lanka. It persists today in the tea producing countries many years after their political independence.

Today, global tea production has expanded tremendously both in acreage, variety, quantity and quality and rate of consumption. At the turn of the Twenty First Century the overall area under tea increased from 2727.42 thousand hectares to 3691.87 thousand hectares in 2010, a compound growth rate of 3.32 percent. Out of these, the areas of tea production in five leading countries were as follows: China (45%), India (21%), Sri Lanka (7%), Kenya (5%) and Vietnam (3%). During the same period quantities of tea produced also increased at a computed rate of 3.48 percent. These figures have since increased. Between 2008 and 2018 world tea production increased at an annual growth rate of 4.7 percent to reach 5.89 million tons in 2018.

Tea is grown in 35 countries. In 2020 the top ten producers according to rank were as shown in Table 1 below. Other countries that produce relatively less quantities of tea are Viet Nam in Asia, Burundi, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia in Africa; Argentina and Brazil in South America; Iran in the Middle East and Russia. There have also been corresponding increases in tea exports and imports. China and India’s exports are less relative to the large quantities of tea they produce. The reason for this is that both countries consume much domestically. In 2018 the share of tea available for export in both countries was for 14 percent for China and 19 percent for India. In 2020 the global tea market reached an unprecedented value of 21 billion US Dollars. A total of 3 million metric tons of dried tea is produced yearly. Out of this 78 percent is black tea, 20 percent is green tea, 2 percent is Oolong. The last two are consumed in China, India, Europe and the United States of America. Other varieties of tea are white and yellow, compressed, instant and granulated tea.  All the varieties are determined by techniques of manufacture.

Table 1: The top ten tea producers in the world in 2020
Rank Country Metric tons of tea per year
1 China 2,400,000
2 India 9,000,000
3 Kenya 305,000
4 Sri Lanka 300,000
5 Turkey 175,000
6 Indonesia 157,000
7 Vietnam 117,000
8 Japan 89,000
9 Iran 87,000
10 Argentina 70,000

Source: FAO, 2020

The reasons for the upswing in tea production and trade are due to the increase in the area for tea production as seen above include dramatic increase in population, urbanization, globalization, improved planting material and advanced technology, including integrated package and practices for tea production. Additionally and very important is the fact that the global consumption of tea has also increase tremendously. It was estimated that between 1993 and 2010 it increased by 60 percent and that it was likely to increase further. In consequence and as a contributory factor in the increased consumption of tea are the many varieties of teas in the market, apart from the orthodox black tea. These include instant tea, flavoured tea, decaffeinated tea, organically grown tea, roasted tea, ready-to-drink tea, and others like tea-biscuits, tea-wine, tea-candy and tea-ice cream. Due to increased demand and the wide varieties that are available in the market, tea is one of the most popular and lowest cost beverages in comparison to others like coffee and alcohol. Tea is believed to be a pleasant, stimulating and health drink.

There is greater tendency to consume tea as often as possible and during many occasions. Most people include tea in their breakfast. Many take tea two or three hours before lunch and with lunch. Then there is the four O’clock tea. Some others will take tea with their supper. Few also take the bedside tea just before sleep. It is because of this that the major tea sellers in Kenya once had as their advertisement to promote tea consumption the following caption: “All time is tea time”

Tea is widely consumed during social gatherings: during meetings among friends; Christmas for Christians and .Ramadan for Muslims; weddings; and as a show of welcome and hospitality to visitors. Quite importantly tea is used to strengthen diplomatic relations. It is always available in most embassies as a drink during discussions and conversations as it is believed to reduce tension.  It is also used as gifts to countries that either do not produce it at all or which produce a different variety. Apart from cementing relations these gestures also promote sales.

Additionally tea is important today, more than ever before, because for its producers it is a major source of employment and export exchange earner. In India and Kenya the tea industry employs almost three million people, respectively in the estates or plantations and as smallholders in their own farms. The vast majority of people relate to tea in many ways: as growers, workers, consumers, traders and suppliers. In both countries and other tea growing areas te occupies a substantial proportion of the agricultural sector.

Challenges in tea production

Alongside these positive attributes of tea are to be found its major challenges: increase in production costs relative to low prices; overdependence on tea and one or two other export crops whose demand, price and market value are externally determined; multinational companies’ domination of the tea industry; the complexities of management; poverty and deteriorating livelihoods among smallholder tea producers and consumers; resource constraints; climate change and the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic. These should be analyzed within the context of globalization, which had been viewed as a paradox by some scholars (Amin and Luckin, 1996).

Chase-Dunn, et al (2000: 77-79) have defined four major aspects of globalization that are relevant for our discussion about the challenges facing the tea industry. The first aspect is structural globalization which refers to changes in the density of international and global interactions relative to local or national networks. It can be argued that this aspect of globalization has increased the consumption of tea in developing countries. Most inhabitants in these countries consider the consumption of tea as an index of “civilization”. They desire to catch up with the developed Western countries in this regard. Secondly, economic globalization, which is the greater integration in the organization of production, distribution and consumption of commodities in the economy, is particularly relevant to the rapid rise in the global consumption of tea. Finally, trade globalization, which refers to the extent of long distance and global exchange of commodities with national societies, raises questions whether tea producers in developing countries are integrated into the global economy to their ultimate benefit. Is it not possible that the integration of developing countries into the global economy and the increased production and consumption of tea, which is primarily a beverage, a price that they must pay? Aren’t developing countries sacrificing the food needs? Do these countries earn sufficient returns in tea to make them food secure and to improve their livelihoods generally? In all these types of globalization there are winners and losers. The global market has both integrated and marginalized tea producers in developing countries. These countries’ marginalization is manifested first in the decline in terms of western investment in the tea industry and volume of tea trade relative to imports of capital and machinery. Secondly, the levels of economic aid and technological assistance from developed economies to the region and its tea sector, in particular, have also not kept pace with demand. These factors have caused challenges at the level of tea production.

The major crisis in tea production is that its high cost due to the fact that the industry is labour intensive (Mwangi, 2016). Apart from the initial ploughing and general preparation of land and planting seeds, tea requires year round maintenance in the form of frequent weeding, mulching, pruning and trimming to the required height of one metre for easy plucking. Plucking which commences when the tea is about two years old is a weekly activity that is almost exclusively done by hand. Other labour demands include processing, which involves steaming, drying, rolling tasting, grading and packaging. Part of processing is mechanized. All these require adequate, efficient and well paid labour.  Whereas the large-scale tea estates have managed to hire the required labour seasonally and employ the majority of their workers, most smallholders often primarily rely of family labour and rarely on hired labour. In all instances wages for the majority of labourers are quite low, averaging about 1.5 US Dollars daily and sometimes depending on the weight of tea picked. Moreover, labourers’ living conditions are deplorable (Onduru, et al. 2012). Some who are forced to share single rooms in poorly constructed houses lack privacy.  Sexual harassment has been reported in many tea companies. 

Moreover, for sustainable production the following must be done correctly: maintenance of soil fertility through soil conservation and addition of the necessary organic and inorganic fertilizers and other nutrients, pest management, use of adequate energy to run the processing industries, paying adequate attention to product value. All these, in addition to high costs of transport, taxes and other levies to pay for services like extension, and payments for managers of tea producers’ organizations greatly add to the cost of production and affect smallholders most.

Paradoxically, increases in the quantity of tea production that were caused by increases in acreages led to a global glut that either pushed prices down or made them stagnant. This happened at the expense of the quality of tea. The situation was worsened by the fact that these countries’ heavy dependence on tea and one or two other primary commodities. We turn to challenges in tea trade in the context of the neo-liberal market system.

It should be noted that neo-liberal policies argue that unregulated trade is an engine of economic growth for developing countries as it enhances access to goods and services, technology and knowledge; stimulates local entrepreneurship; attracts private capital flows; facilitates efficient allocation of resources; increases foreign exchange earnings; and finally generates resources for sustainable development and poverty reduction (Harvey, 2005)   It would be very informative to find out if these promises hold true for tea. It has been found out, however, that in practice developing countries’ markets, including that of tea, are still too small, that their share in world trade has actually declined since the advent of neo-liberalism, that their terms of trade have actually declined; and that the direction of trade in these countries is not among themselves but with developed countries. Continued dependence on tea as an employer and earner of foreign exchange is an indication of the limitations of neo-liberalism’s potential for economic diversification in developing countries. Furthermore it is common practice for developed countries to import low quality tea from developing countries, blend them with other varieties to add value to them and then export them more expensively to other countries, including developing countries. The lack of economic diversification in developing countries is part of the reason for overdependence on tea and the very limited trade among the countries of the global South. Some scholars attribute this to overdependence on tea to MNC’s domination of the tea industry and their influence on tea marketing and prices.

Mention has already been made about private companies and multinationals that was involved in tea production in colonial Kenya. Their numbers today have increased as a result of globalization and trade liberalization. Apart from James Finlay the other MNCs in the global tea industry are Unilever, Associated British Foods – Twinning, Tata tea – Tetley of India, Teekanne Group of Germany, Tea Forte, Starbucks Corporation and MacLeod Russell. These MNCs are the powerhouse behind neo-liberal policies from which they derive huge financial benefits, including in global tea trade. They straddle and control the international tea production, market and trade. They manipulate both the output and prices of tea. Since they operate globally, losses in one single country are more than compensated in the many others. Besides they have heavy representation in the World Trade Organization (WTO), whose country delegates they often lobby to enhance their gains in tea and other primary commodity trade. Consumers and smallholders in developing countries are not adequately represented in global negotiations for better tea prices.

As a consequence tea prices are not actually determined by the forces of demand and supply. MNCs are known to influence the type, quantity, quality and the price of tea that developing countries produce. This is supported by the fact, for example, that over 70 percent of global tea production is sold via auctions through anonymous transactions in which intermediaries, including MNCs manipulate prices to reduce profit margins for smallholder farmers. The tea market is therefore not only a system of exchange but also a site of economic struggle and conflict between developing and developed countries. This may be the reason that global tea prices either remained constant or declined between 2005 and 2015 forcing India to set up a price stabilization fund and another fund for the development of the tea sector to cushion smallholders.  Between mid-2020 and March 2021alone, Kenya experienced a 12 percent drop in tea prices. Earlier the drop in prices in the country was attributed to global glut in tea production. Be that as it may, such drops in tea prices have an overall negative effect on the economies of tea producing countries in the developing world.   Low tea prices continually compromise the livelihoods of consumers and smallholder farmers in multiple ways. Because of it governments loose earnings required to fund necessary services like health provision, education, transport, better housing and higher wages for estate labourers and the importation of farm inputs, including fertilizers and farm machinery. These are manifestations of resource constraints in contrast to resource abundance in developed countries. Despite these realities government leaders in developing countries and domestic tea organizations like the Kenya Tea Development Agency collude with the International Tea Authority to protect and further their own interests at the expense of the smallholder farmer. Earnings from tea are further affected by climate change.

Although the earth has experienced change for millions of years human activities, through environmental pollution, have recently exacerbated the situation. Primary and secondary industrialization, and intensive urbanization have led to rapid global warming and consequently to temperature and rainfall variability that is not conducive to tea production. Although developed countries are to blame for this disastrous trend, tea producers in developing countries have also contributed to it on a relatively limited scale (Bett, 2018 and Jayasinghe and Kumar, 2020). The ideal conditions for tea are temperatures ranging between 10 to 30 degrees Celsius, a minimum annual precipitation of 1250 millimeters and acidic soils. Global warming has often led to either very cold temperatures or frost conditions well below the required upper limits which damage tea leaves, roots and a reduction in the efficiency of workers. On the other hand, extreme hot conditions beyond the necessary limit dries the soil, creates heat stress to tea leaves, are conducive to disease pests both of which will seriously reduce both the quality and quantity of tea leaves. Tea grown on higher altitudes in Bangladesh, Ethiopia and parts of Kenya, has been vulnerable to varying degrees of frost and hailstones. On the other hand, rainfall has seasonally varied extremely below and above the limits and duration that tea requires. In either case this has adversely affected tea. Reduced water content reduces the resilience of the tea crop and the quality of the leaves. The latter case results in floods, soil erosion and landslides that damage tea farms. The irony of the situation is that the effects of such extreme changes in climate are much more deleterious among smallholder farmers in developing countries which lack the technology and knowledge for mitigation. The situation has been aggravated by the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic was first reported in December 2019 (Kassa, 2020). Ironically it originated from Wuhan, China, the cradle of tea. It spread rapidly to the rest of the world because of globalization and trade which provided the channels of transmission.  It caused a lot of deaths of both the rich and the poor in its wake.  The measures to combat it reduced tea production and trade, and consumption too. These measures included lock downs, social distancing, limits on air, train and bus travel, closure of tea processing plants and markets, first in China and then elsewhere in the world, except Tanzania. China reportedly lost 144 billion US dollar of tea sales per week at the peak of the pandemic in the country. Kenya initially took advantage of the reluctance of India’s tea customers to purchase tea from the country by increasing their exports to these countries. Shortly afterwards, as the effects of the pandemic became more debilitating Kenya, like many other tea producing countries, could not export tea to their traditional customers which had closed their borders. Turkey suffered the loss of most of its migrant labourers from Georgia and Azerbaijan. Similar incidents occurred elsewhere and the situation was exacerbated by the COVID-19’s second wave that was even more virulent. While the full impact of the pandemic is yet to be assessed, given that it still persists, what is obvious is that it will affect the global economy generally and the tea industry, in particular, in specifically regarding production and trade, the supply chain and the financing of the sector. Most countries are still focusing their resources in combating the pandemic.

The way forward

The challenges facing tea production and trade are many and so inextricably intertwined that effective and workable solutions should be holistic. At the broadest level it is necessary to reassess the neo-liberal world order with a view to improving conditions of agricultural production and trade generally and of tea, in particular. This is largely because as constituted and operationalized by institutions such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the WTO, the present world order has perpetuated  asymmetries and inequalities between developed and developing countries in the global economy. There should be an objective assessment regarding the operations of the world economy with a view to establish the causes of inequalities and unfairness I order to rectify them. This should lead to solutions that are specifically pertinent to tea. Broadly, the following are suggested:  First, the economies of economies of developing countries should be diversified to stem overreliance on primary commodities generally and tea in particular. This does not imply the volume of tea production should be minimized. More of it should be processed locally for purposes of value addition. Secondly, in line with Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSS) requirements tea production should be environmentally restorative (Voora, Bermudez and Larrea, 2019). This implies that more attention should be paid to soil conservation measures and maintaining biodiversity and use of less harmful herbicides and pesticides. Furthermore, sustainable market mechanisms that are fair to all at every level of the tea supply chain, including growing, processing, trading and consumption, should be established. This will require establishing ways and means by which all the stakeholders are brought to work together for their common good. This will require changes in governance by the state and the major interests in the tea industry. There is, for instance, the need to improve the wages and general working conditions of those who labour on tea farms and factories. This will be a worthy way to initiate some balance of power in the long tea supply chain. These can be accomplished if there is the will to do so.


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Peter Odhiambo Ndege

He is a Professor of African History in the Department of History, Political Science and Public Administration, Moi University, Eldoret, Kenya. He received his BA Hons. from Makerere University, Uganda; Postgraduate Diploma in Education and Master of Arts in History, respectively, from the University of Nairobi, Kenya; and Doctor of Philosophy in History from West Virginia University, Morgantown, USA. He has written on different aspects of Kenya’s economic and political history in books as well as journals. His other publication is Olonana ole Mbatian in the series, Makers of Kenya History. He is a former Head of Department of History and Dean, School of Arts and Social Sciences, Moi University.

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