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Power outages choke Malawi tea industry

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Persistent power outages in the country are said to be choking operations of the country’s second foreign exchange earner, tea, the Tea Association of Malawi (Taml) has said.

Whilst the season has started well for the tea sector as it is receiving good rains, the industry is facing hurdles with the power supply by Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom).

Taml Chief Executive Officer, Clement Thindwa, said the sector is being let-down by intermittent power supply which is forcing most estates to operate using power generators.

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“The generators, in turn raise cost of production and threaten our competitiveness on the international market which the Industry heavily relies on [on average over 98 percent of our teas are consumed abroad],” he said.

“We are experiencing cases of estates literally throwing away green leaf due to incapacity to process teas resulting from low power supply generation. If this trend continues, it would bring dire and untold situations for Malawi’s tea industry because use of diesel is totally unsustainable,” Thindwa said.

He further said during 2016, tea production went up by 9 percent from 39,447 metric tonnes which is the record lowest to 43,127 metric tonnes.

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On the other hand, according to a Van Rees tea market weekly report, local tea offered a decent volume on the Mombasa market.

The report said despite the size, demand was firm and made most teas trade firm to dearer.

“Probably the brokers were inspired by the direction of the Mombasa auction. The weather conditions are still favourable and the green leaf intake is in full swing. The supply of electricity is improving, which gives factories the possibility to run at full capacity,” reads part of the report.

However, Escom has said power generation capacity has improved at its stations following the good rains.

The power utility body said it expects to improve to between 200 mega watts and 280 mega watts.

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