A scarcity of local black tea in the Ethiopian market has resulted in a drastic increase in prices for the commodity. Local consumers are currently forced to buy a one hundred-gram packet for 10 Br, which used to cost two Birr within the past two years, according to tea consumers.
There are a number of tea factories, including Ahadu Tea Packing, located in the Gerji area of Addis Abeba. The factory has been experiencing a deficit of raw materials for a period of one year.
"A lot of our customers are requesting for tea supplies, but we are not able to provide enough to satisfy their demand," said Awraris.
Wush Wush is another tea enterprise in the market with a production rate of 3,200kg of tea a hectare. It runs two modern factories with hourly capacities of 1,400kg.
Great Abyssinia Plc, producer of Abyssinia Tea, which claims to have a 20pc market share in the country, has also reported a scarcity of raw materials. The current production rate of the company is 15tn monthly which is a 30pc drop from last year's production rate. The company sources its raw materials from Ethio AgriCEFT.
A source from Ethio AgriCEFT, who did not wish to be identified, informed Fortune that production of different farm produce, apart from tea, has dropped due to drought encountered for the last four to five months with a change in rain patterns. Ethio AgriCEFT is a local company that purchases different farm produce and supplies it to different factories for processing in the country.
"To improve production, environment, and climate change, these issues should be handled because without rains, no productive agricultural practises can be conducted," said the source.
Most supermarkets in the city including Asfash, New York, Shoa, and Ethio among others alleged that supply of the product during the past two weeks from factories is very low with increased prices. Currently, the tea price in the supermarkets ranges from six Birr to 10 Br for a hundred-gram packet while a 40-gram one costs five Birr to three Birr within the past month.
Shop retailers also complain of the increased price of tea from their suppliers in Mercato. In addition, they say that they have not been able to purchase the product for a period of one month. Due to the high demand for the product, they are buying 100-gram packets at nine Birr each and selling them to consumers at 10 Br to 11 Br. A one hundred-gram packet in Mercato used to cost from five Birr to seven Birr, depending upon the brand, with 40-gram packets cost three Birr.
Yonas Gezew, a shop owner along Africa Avenue (Bole Road), claimed to have lost many clients due to the lack of the product, which is not available in Mercato. He said that a new brand has been introduced to the market, known as Lina Tea, with a 100 gram-packet costing nine Birr and retailers selling it at 11 Br, which locals are finding hard to consume in addition to other high prices.
"I have lost so many clients within a period of one month, since they are not familiar with tea bags and they cannot afford to buy local tea at an increased price," complained Yonas, confirming that some consumers have switched to coffee.
Hadra Fekadu is a another shop retailer who still holds a number of black tea brands, but she said that she is forced to sell at a higher price. A packet of 80 grams of Black Lion Tea in her shop costs between 11 Br and seven Br, 100 grams of Wush Wush 10 Br to seven Birr, while 40 grams of Dire Tea sells for five Birr to three Birr, a price recorded in the past one month.
"Consumers are purchasing two, three packets due to rumours of low supply, but I am forced to hide some to satisfy all of the clients," said a reluctant Hadra.
On the other hand, consumers of tea complain of the high increase in the price of tea in cafes. Some cafes have increased prices from three Birr to four Birr. The café owners give the same reason that the store owners do.
Local need is not met by local productions alone, but Ethiopia is still a tea exporter. The country has given 6,000ht for investors in tea production, but, so far, only 3,000ht are harvested, with the remaining half expected to be productive in the coming year. Potential land for tea farming is estimated at 500,000ht. Annual production of black tea in 2010/11 was 7,000tn, of which 704.8tn were exported, bringing in a revenue of 1.3 million dollars. This performance is overshadowed by the import of 6.4 million tonnes of tea for 13.5 million dollars.
Berhanu Tesfaye, senior agronomist from the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), said that the supply of tea has been deteriorating for the past seven years. In 2005, the country exported 105tn of tea at a cost of 708,429 dollars. Tea investment in the country is high compared to coffee, which scares investors, according to Berhanu. Tea production is also affected by diseases, he says.
"The demand for tea has been increasing globally in the past seven years with many people preferring tea to other beverages such as coffee," said Behanu.
SPECIAL TO FORTUNE