PURPLE tea might soon be rolled out to farmers. Kenya Tea Development Agency chairman Peter Kanyago said research on the high-yielding purple tea is at an advanced stage at Kangaita and Kericho tea research stations.
"We expect to roll out the purple tea variety on a massive scale to all farmers once research and experimentation are complete. The quantity of the tea is much needed," said Kanyago in Othaya.
Speaking on Wednesday after attending Chinga Tea Factory annual general meeting, the chairman said the purple tea variety is not only high-yielding but also medicinal among other qualities as opposed to the ordinary tea.
The average production per tea bush is about a kilogramme but the purple tea is expected to produce three times this amount translating to more earnings.
Kanyago said this has increased its demand internally. Currently, Kenya produces and exports more than 96 per cent of the crop as black tea.
The tea is used to blend lower quality teas from other countries in the world market. This has fetched low prices and reduced the revenue to farmers and the country.
One approach is to diversify and add value to the tea products for the domestic and international markets The Tea Research Foundation of Kenya has pre-released a purple tea variety for commercial use targeting a unique tea product, anthocyanin- rich tea.
Kanyago said tea production increased by a nine per cent recently. The chairman was speaking a day after the agency completed elections for regional directors for all its factories amid high earnings from the sector last year.
In 2012, earnings by smallholder tea farmers increased to Sh61.4 billion, a 12.5 per cent rise from the previous year. The total payout to farmers increased to Sh45.3 billion, which is the highest ever in the history of Kenya.