Malawi has a huge potential to increase its tea exports to Canada because the market, despite being small, is growing and well served, according to a new report.
The report by a Canadian Justin Wollin initiated by Farmers Union of Malawi (FUM) and World University Service of Canada (Wusc) Malawi and presented Friday in Mulanje said Canadians drink almost 9.7 billion cups of tea each year and there is potential for growth.
“While traditional black tea is still the overall preferred type, over the past year, specialty tea is fuelling growth of total tea in Canada. Malawi has consistently exported tea to Canada, however, in much small quantities,” reads part of the report.
The report was presented to Tea Association of Malawi (Taml) officials and smallholder growers representatives.
Tea is one of Malawi’s critical cash crops as it brings in eight percent of export earnings. The tea industry employs between 40 000 and 60 000 people at peak season, according to deputy director of trade Charity Musonzo, who was the guest of honour at the unveiling of the report.
The country’s tea exports to Canada have been fluctuating since 2005 when it exported 1 000 tonnes. The record export was registered in 2009 at 1 200 tonnes and dropped to 400 tonnes in 2013, according to the report titled, ‘Tea in Malawi: Market Assessment, Challenges, Opportunities for Growth, Development, and Trade with Canada.
Among the recommendations, the report said commercial estates must focus on improving quality and institute creative marketing strategies that highlight high quality leaf.
It said estates must also work to find an industry-wide strategy for integrating smallholder growers into the market, stressing that consensus is needed through Taml.
“Opportunities exist in the Canada tea market. Given the popularity of specialty tea in Canada, estates could enter this market through estate-smallholder specialty tea brands.
“Capacity building and institutional development are key to empowering smallholder growers and ensuring equitable participation in the market,” said the report.
Musonzo said since the tea industry in Malawi is taken up by both smallholder and large estate producers, she encouraged smallholders to form tea producer and marketing cooperatives.
“The cooperative framework will help you to think agribusiness and focus on tea with a more long-term business perspective,” she said.
FUM director of research, policy and partnership Candida Nakhumwa, Taml chief executive officer Clement Thindwa and chairperson Sangwani Hara were recently on a trade visit to Canada to conduct a market assessment.
Hara in an interview said the Canada trip went on well, adding that they intend to increase volumes in terms of exports to the country.
“Canadian market is lucrative in terms of prices. We already export tea to Canada directly, but we are not happy with the volumes,” he said.
Last year, Malawi exported 350 tonnes of the crop to Canada, according to Hara, saying while there, they were able to meet buyers and visited various tea outlets.