WEST NILE –Tea growing in the West Nile district of Zombo has got an accelerating effort that could boost local production.
Zombo Tea Growers’ Cooperative Society and Edwin Tea Foundation Initiative, EFOTI, a company with good expertise in tea farming, have signed a memorandum of understanding that aims largely at promoting tea research, production, productivity, value addition, and tea product diversification in Zombo for five years.
The MoU was signed last Friday, April 9, by the Chairman of the Cooperative, Christopher Unencan, the Secretary, Jungiera Geoffrey, and Aneniwu Patrick, a cooperative tea farmer, and Edwin Beekunda Atukunda, the founder of EFOTI.
Unencan told theCooperator in an interview that, “We signed the MoU to enable us to work in partnership with EFOTI in our district to build the capacity of farmers in terms of training and value addition.”
Tea growing was reintroduced in Zombo in 2013-2014. Unencan said members who planted tea in 2016-2018 are harvesting now.
Unencan said the cooperative, formed in 2016, has over 300 registered members, who have grown over 500 acres of tea.
He said, however, that despite the huge acreage of tea plantations, members are still earning very little from the enterprise because there is no factory in the area to process the harvest and add value to attract high prices.
“The registered members of the cooperative suggested that we come to an agreement with EFOTI because they have been struggling to sell their tea. They are selling their tea locally after a very long and tiring process of pounding the leaves using the mortar and pestle,” Unencan said.
He said farmers believe the MoU will spur the establishment of a tea processing factory.
Although there are about 36 tea processing factories in Uganda, all of them are concentrated in western and southwestern Uganda.
Edwin Atukunda Beekunda, the founder of EFOTI, said an area qualifies to get a factory after planting at least 2000 acres of tea.
He said following the MoU, EFOTI will conduct training in agronomic practices to enable improvements in tea yields and quantity and also promote value addition, processing, branding, packaging, marketing, and export.”
He said they will also, “Build the capacity of tea nursery operators, tea growers, students and other stakeholders for improved tea cultivation, processing, and marketing.”
Tea is one of the leading cash crops in Uganda with a yearly export of 65,000 metric tonnes. A 2020 report by Ugtea shows that Uganda is the second leading tea producer and exporter in Africa and among the top 15 in the world.
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