‘Research crucial in boosting tea yield’
BY TAONGA SABOLA:
The Tea Research Foundation for Central Africa (TRFCA) has said conducting studies is crucial in boosting both quality and quantity of tea in Malawi.
TRFCA Chairman, Jim Merlose, was speaking at Mimosa Research Station in Mulanje during a field day the organisation organised for stakeholders in the tea industry.
Merlose said the advent of climate change has given rise to the need for Malawi to develop varieties which are drought-resistant and high yielding.
He added that, over the years, Malawi teas have been used as fillers in blends but varieties are being developed that would help local teas to be sold as stand-alone products.
“Malawi tea in the past has been considered filler tea. In other words, it has been on high demand because of the colour and the guts of the liquor. So, it has been used in a blend as a colour component. It has not been used as a stand-alone tea.
“These varieties we are developing will definitely put Malawi on the map in terms of quality and they will certainly make Malawi tea more comparable with Kenya type of teas,” Merlose said.
TRFCA has over the years been working on a number of new varieties which include PC 301, PC 302, PC 303, PC 304, PC 168, PC 185 and PC 198.
Sukambizi Association Trust General Manager, Austin Changazi, said, unlike in the past, tea growing districts are having unpredictable rainfall patterns, which is posing a challenge to tea farming.
“As such, researching on drought-resistant varieties is key to the future of Malawi’s tea industry,” Changazi said.
Production of tea, Malawi’s second largest export commodity after tobacco, has of late been going down but rose six percent to 45.6 million kilogrammes in 2017 from 43 million kilogrammes in 2016, according to a Reserve Bank of Malawi report.
The tea sector is the second largest employer after the government with more than 40,000 employees and contributes about seven percent to the gross domestic product.
Malawi exports its tea to Britain, South Africa, the United States of America, Canada, Pakistan and the Middle East.